Oral cancer is a deceptively common type of cancer. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), nearly 42,000 Americans are diagnosed with either oral or throat cancer each year. Because the condition can develop anywhere inside your mouth, it can manifest in your jaw as well.
Jaw cancer can occur either on the upper jaw, known as the maxilla; or the lower jaw, known as the mandible. If you experience any of the following jaw cancer symptoms, be sure to seek an evaluation by your dentist.
A tumor is one explanation for pain in the jawbone, and this pain can make it hard for you to eat and chew. Jaw pain can develop for multiple reasons related to oral cancer, but it is one of the main symptoms associated with metastatic growths in the oral cavity, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Metastatic tumors develop when cancer from one part of your body spreads to another, such as the maxilla or mandible.
Lumps on the jaw
Lumps on the roof of your mouth or along your gumline may be the only jaw cancer symptoms you experience. These lumps can be a sign that cancer is developing on the jawbone beneath the mouth's soft tissues. If you notice a new lump inside your mouth and it doesn't resolve itself in two weeks, you need to see your dentist, advises the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Swelling of the jaw
Swelling in the jaw is the most common symptom of osteosarcoma, which the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology highlights as a type of bone tumor that can affect the jaw. This swelling may be visible on the side of your face, but it can also occur inside your mouth. The roof of your mouth may be swollen as well, or you may notice swelling beneath your teeth – depending on the location of the tumor. This inflammation is caused by the growth of the tumor inside the bone, and if it leads to gum irritation, your dentist may recommend using a toothbrush with extra-soft bristles such as the Colgate® 360°® Enamel Health™.
Tumors in the jawbone can also lead to unexplained tooth mobility, according to the Merck Manual. If you notice that your teeth are loose or suddenly shifting positions, don't hesitate to let your dentist know. Tooth mobility could be caused by a tumor on your jawbone that is pushing your teeth out of place.
Pain, swelling, lumps on the jaw and loose teeth are all realistic jaw cancer symptoms. If you experience any of them, make sure to see your dentist right away for a screening to catch this treatable condition before it metastasizes.