During the early stages of mouth cancer, the cancer has not spread to the local lymph nodes, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. The most common early sign of mouth cancer is a sore in the mouth that doesn't heal, explains the American Cancer Society.
Other early signs of mouth cancer include persistent pain or a red or white patch in the mouth, according to the American Cancer Society. Additional signs are numbness in the mouth or the tongue and a swelling of the jaw that may make it hard to fit dentures. The patient might also have trouble moving his jaw or tongue or have trouble chewing or swallowing. His teeth might become loose in the area of the malignancy. A patient should see his dentist if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks.
Fortunately, mouth cancer can be found early and treated, according to the American Cancer Society. Besides examining the patient, the dentist can use dyes or light to discover areas in the mouth that are abnormal. A dye called toluidine blue stains areas of abnormal cells blue. Laser light can also discover abnormal cells, as can a light that is used after the patient has rinsed his mouth with what is essentially vinegar.