Man Checking Mouth in MirrorSelf Examinations can Spot Signs of Trouble

Through the day, you check the mirror—your hair, your collar, your hem. Ever open your mouth to see what’s inside?

You should, and not just when you feel pain or find blood on your toothbrush. You should routinely examine your oral orifice for any changes. Watch for red or white spots or other discolorations and small sores or swellings.

Most of these oral lesions, as we call them, are harmless and easily explained. A tortilla chip or crust of French bread bruised your mouth, for example.

But if you use alcohol or tobacco, or if you’re being treated for any number of systemic diseases—such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders—these little irritations could signal danger.

If you wear dentures, white patches on the tongue can signal a fungal infection, candidiasis, which is treatable.

Iron deficiency can cause oral ulcers, especially during menstruation. This too, once identified, is treatable.

Does your tongue ever swell, become smooth and bright red, or grow a stripe down its middle? It might be a simple vitamin or mineral deficiency.

The idea is to alert us to changes you notice. Together let’s keep your mouth in shape.