Mouth Cancer Awareness Day takes place Wednesday 21st September- and like every year Portobello Dental are delighted to offer our services and expertise in the area. We are offering free oral cancer screening to anyone who is worried about having suspected oral cancer.

According to the National Cancer Registry in Ireland, roughly half of all mouth cancers and even fewer cancers of the pharynx are diagnosed at an early stage. This can result in more complex treatment with greater impact on quality of life and overall survival. Whilst it depends on the cancer site, we know that more than half of those treated will have good survival outcomes and these continue to improve each year.

Early detection of mouth cancer greatly improves the chances of survival.

To find out more about mouth cancer, the signs and symptoms, the risk factors or other information about cancer please follow the link

Dentists have a key role to play in the early detection of mouth cancer and in the prevention of the disease by identifying those patients who are exposed to risk factors.

What are the signs and symptoms of oral cancer?

The most significant sign to look for is an ulcer or sore in the mouth that is not healing

Oral Cancer of the lip

Oral cancer of  the tongue

Also look out for;


  •  The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  •  Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  •  Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  •  Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks
  •  A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  •  Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  •  Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or changes in the voice
  •  Ear pain
  •  A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together – a change in your “bite”
  • Dramatic weight loss

There is absolutely no need to be nervous of the oral cancer exam; see below for an outline of what the dentist will do on the day.

— A mouth cancer exam is painless and quick — it takes only a few minutes —

Here’s what to expect:

1 – Preparing for the exam: If you have dentures (plates), you will be asked to remove them.
2 – Your health care provider will inspect your face, neck, lips and mouth to look for any signs of cancer.
3 – With both hands, he or she will feel the area under your jaw and the side of your neck, checking for lumps that may suggest cancer.
4 – Next, your provider will have you stick out your tongue so it can be checked for swelling or abnormal colour or texture.
5 – In addition, he or she will look at the roof and floor of your mouth, as well as the back of your throat.
6 – He or she will then look at and feel the insides of your lips and cheeks to check for possible signs of cancer, such as red and/or white patches.
7 – Using gauze, he or she will then gently pull your tongue to one side, then the other, to check the base of your tongue. The underside of your tongue will also be checked.
8 – Finally, your provider will put one finger on the floor of your mouth and, with the other hand under your chin, gently press down to check for lumps or sensitivity.

You may be referred for further tests but there’s no need to be alarmed – there are many possible explanations for a variety of symptoms.

To book a FREE Oral Cancer Screening Exam please contact; 01 – 4542022



Hurray for the annual summer holiday! At this time of year, dental patients may have concerns about having dental treatment before setting off on vacation.

Some of the more frequently asked questions include; Can I fly the day after getting a filling? Why do I get a cold sore every summer holiday? Is it ok to I leave my electric toothbrush at home?

© Jyothi | Dreamstime Stock Photos

There is no contraindication to flying after routine dental work such as fillings, crowns etc but our dentists advise at least a day or two of rest immediately after surgical procedures such as an extraction. ‘If you undergo surgery you probably won’t feel up to travelling, as you may feel physically tired or drained,’ Dr Helen Walsh says. ‘It’s best to avoid surgery if possible before a long haul flight where jet lag may come into play as well.’

Following implant surgery, Dr Nick Beirne strongly advises waiting at least 48 hours before flying. ‘You need time to rest and recover before placing yourself in a highly air-conditioned cabin,’ he says. ‘With implants, the sinuses can also be involved so It’s best to avoid the high pressure atmosphere for a while after this surgery.’


Remember to include your lips when lathering on the sun lotion. They do not produce protective melanin so need sunscreen too. In warmer climes a lip balm in a high factor such as SPF50 is best, but the Irish Cancer Society recommends in their sun smart code an absolute minimum of SPF15 for adults and SPF30+ for children. Use a water resistant balm, such as zinc oxide, when in the sea or pool and reapply regularly.

sunscreening lipsticks can come in pretty shades

Avoid shiny lip balms and lipsticks with no or low SPF when in the sun. They may lead to burning by allowing the sun’s rays to reach deeper into the skin. Serious or repeated sun damage can result in lip cancer.

Ladies- no need to fear a white or waxy residue. Sunscreen lipsticks, including zinc oxide balms, are now available in a range of pretty shades and often contain added moisturising or nutritive ingredients! Just be sure to go for a high SPF and check that the product has both UVB and UVA filters. 

cold sore
Herpes(PHIL 1573)


UV light from the sun can trigger cold sores in some sufferers. Reduce the risk of a break out by applying SPF50 lip balm and wearing a hat with a brim wide enough to shade your mouth. If you suffer from cold sores, be prepared and pack your usual medicated treatment, e.g. Zovirax, in case of a flare-up.

© Teodor Ostojic | Dreamstime Stock Photos


When on holidays, why take a break from the oral hygiene regime laid out for you by your hygienist? ‘Bring whatever interdental aids (e.g. Tepe brushes, floss picks etc) that have been recommended for you,’ says Joann Marshall, one of our Dental Hygienists at Portobello Dental Clinic. ‘Charge up your electric toothbrush, and bring it and your charger with you if you use one,’ she adds. Many countries use two-pin sockets suitable to an electric toothbrush so you may be able to leave your adaptor at home.


If you are planning on enjoying the local red wines or visiting vineyards you may experience red wine staining in the mouth.  ‘Red wine will stain some people’s teeth, but not everyone’s,’ explains Joann. ‘The only way to avoid it is not to drink red wine, but using a straw can slow down staining and keep it more to the back of the teeth.’

Be wary of internet myths about how to deal with ‘‘purple mouth’’ caused by red wine staining. Some improvised methods are very acidic and can be harmful to teeth.  ‘Seeing your dental hygienist after the holiday is the only treatment for it,’ advises Joann.

She also recommends using a straw if drinking those tempting, but acidic, fruity cocktails and juices and sugary sodas, not only on holidays but all year round.

So are you all packed and ready to go?

Passport? Check. Beach towel? Check. Tooth and mouth care? No problem!


Ed-001 - Copy

As part of our commitment to generating awareness about mouth cancer, we previously posted an article on lip cancer and the role SPF lipsticks and balms can play in helping protect against this disease.   Your lips are vulnerable as they contain no melanin, the substance that gives pigment to skin but also filters out some of the suns harmful radiation.   Extended exposure to the sun can cause long term damage at any time of year and even through cloud. It is important to protect your lips when outdoors for extended periods no matter the season, yet often, this is an area of the face most often forgotten when slapping on the sunscreen.

We like to practice what we preach, so members of the team at Portobello Dental Clinic decided to get lippy and check out various sun screening lip products. The opinions expressed are entirely our own and do not mean these products are superior or inferior to other similar products or brands. This is a consumer review, not a test of SPF efficacy.


Choosing a sun screening product can be confusing so first, a quick glossary of terms.


SPF means sun protection factor. It is a measure of the product’s capability to filter out the harmful UVB rays of the sun. SPF15 filters out approximately 93% of these solar rays. SPF30 wards off 97% while SPF50 screens out 98%. The higher you go, the better protected you are. No matter what SPF you use, reapply every two hours

Waterproof  v Water resistant

The FDA defines water resistant in terms of sunscreen as either providing 40 minutes or 80 minutes protection  in water. This means that for the stated amount of time in the water (40 or 80 minutes) the SPF value does not decrease. No product is 100% waterproof. (note, all sunscreen, including water resistant types, should be reapplied after 2 hours or after towelling.)

Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum filters both sunburning and dangerous UVB rays and aging UVA rays. Both types of  UV light can cause skin or lip cancer


No sunscreen fliters out the suns rays 100% and the term ‘sunblock’ is no longer allowed under EU directive nor by the FDA


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Sporty lip balm

Banana Boat Sport Balm, SPF50

Water resistant (80 mins), found at larger pharmacy chains and online

Tester: Dr Nick Beirne, a keen athlete who enjoys running and kite surfing

Verdict: I  liked the taste – orangey without tasting too artificial! Easy to apply, and it’s rated broad spectrum SPF 50 – so plenty of protection

Cons: The manufacturers claim it’s water resistant for 80 mins – but it’s transparent so it’s hard to tell when you need to reapply. My lip burns pretty easily in the sun, so If I’m doing water sports,  I want to know when my sunscreen is wearing off – personally I’d go for a zinc based one. If, however, you can’t live with the garish fluorescent look of zinc, then this is a pretty good bet.






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High protection lip balm


La Roche Posay, Anthelios XL 50+ stick SPF50,

Water resistant.  For sensitive areas such as lips, ears and face. Widely available in pharmacies and department stores.

Tester: Anne-Marie O’Rourke, Treatment Coordinator and avid hiker

Verdict: Light and non waxy. Handy stick to throw in a pocket and reapply on the go, so perfect for a few hours hiking or cliff walking.  It’s unscented, which is better for my sensitive Irish skin! If you apply it properly in an thick layer or two,  it does leave a hint of a white residue so I rub it in really well.






Zinc & Aloe (mauve) by Aloe Up

Zinc Oxide which provides high protection. Contains moisturising aloe vera. Available online in mauve, tan or clear so not just for the girls!

Testers: Dr Helen Walsh (Winter skiing) and Practice Manager, Sinead Farrelly



SF: Creamy with a real lipstick look in a pretty colour. I’d wear it as a regular lipstick.

HW: Originally got this high protection lippy for a skiing holiday. As an added bonus, lipsticks with a cooler tinge like this mauve really bring up teeth whitening results!

SPF-up your lipstick


Supergoop Mint Fusion lip balm SPF30.

Gentle sheen, wearable alone or under your regular lipstick. Available  via various online outlets

Testers: Hygienist, Joann Marshall and Treatment Coordinator, Anne-Marie


JM: Tingly fresh and moisturizing and not at all sticky like lip gloss. Nice mint taste like chewing gum!

AM: Lovely year-round, everyday lip balm, though I’ll stick to my SPF50 for hiking and high summer. I love that you can turn any lipstick into an SPF30 lippy with this under it. It absorbs well so my favourite lippy doesn’t slide off it.

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It is an unfortunate myth that layering SPF products equals accumulated SPF. If you apply SPF30 under another lipstick containing SPF15 for example, it does not add up to factor 45!  You  still get SPF30, no more.


To read more about lip cancer and sun protection please read  Get Lippy about Lip Cancer, part 1


Summer may fade but lip cancer, a form of mouth cancer caused largely by the sun, cares little about seasons. Lips are extremely vulnerable to burning, premature aging and lip cancer. Solar damage is a risk even through cloud and in Winter time. Men over 40 run the greatest risk of developing lip cancer, though it can affect anyone who spends much time outdoors. It is thought that lip cancer may affect more men than women, principally because outdoor work such as farming, fishing and forestry traditionally attracts more males.

Unlike the rest of our skin, lips do not produce melanin. This is the pigment that generates a tan but also provides some natural protection from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Chronic sun exposure can later lead to Aktinic Keratosis (potentially pre-cancerous crusting) or ultimately, lip cancer.

SCC lip
Lip Cancer. photo courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation


Lip cancer is considered both a mouth cancer and a skin cancer. The tell-tale symptom is a sore, lesion or lump that won’t heal. The lips may be painful and/or bleed.

If treated too late there is a chance, though small, that it may spread to other organs. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (USA), lip cancer is ‘not uncommon’ but if treated early, it is ‘almost always curable.’ However, the relapse rate post-treatment can be as high as 35%. In advanced stages or recurrent cases some studies show that the mortality rate reaches up to 15%. (source)

The general risks associated with mouth cancers are gender (male), age (40+), smoking or tobacco chewing, alcohol abuse, compromised immune system and in some cases, Human Papillomvirus (HPV) which is spread via oral sex. But when it comes to lips, extended or repeated sun exposure is the primary threat.


The Irish Cancer Society‘s advises adults to use sunscreen with minimum SPF15 and UV protection in addition to seeking shade and covering up. A baseball hat is insufficient headgear as the shade doesn’t always reach the lower face. If participating in water sports or sweating a lot, use a sunscreen that is water resistant (80 minutes protection). Reapply every two hours and after towelling.

Skiing poses a high risk of sunburn. Snow reflects and amplifies the sun’s harmful rays. In addition to the fore-mentioned precautions, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends avoiding the slopes between 10am and 4pm when the sun is at its strongest and to carry travel sized sunscreen for handy reapplication.


 IMG_2858We asked Selene Daly, Dermatology Clinical Nurse Specialist in Sligo Regional Hospital and spokesperson for the Irish Skin Foundation, for specific lip care advice.

‘I would strongly recommend factor 50 sticks in high summer, for hiking, sun holidays and when out on open water’ says Selene. She also strongly recommends SPF 50 for sufferers of coldsores, which are more often triggered by UV light.

When it comes to off season or short term sun exposure though Selene advocates high protection (50)  ‘SPF15 is better than using nothing at all. ‘She explains that ‘it’s difficult to know how stable this filter is if the lipstick has been used for more than 6 months or stored inappropriately.’ Her advice is to read the labels for optimum storage temperatures and  to note the expiry date, usually 6 months to 1 year.


There has been debate that shiny lip glosses with no sunscreen present greater risk than going bare lipped when out and about. Selene throws some light on the question; ‘many Dermatologists feel these glossy lip products may increase the risk of skin [lip] cancer.  The action of the gloss changes the nature of the skin and can allow UV light to penetrate deeper thus increasing the chance of DNA mutation. ‘

This past month, members of the team at Portobello Dental Clinic , male and female, decided to get lippy.  We gave a variety of sun screening lip products a test run. To see our verdicts, you can check back with our blog tomorrow.

If you are worried about a sore on your lip or in your mouth do get it checked. This Wednesday, 17th September is Mouth Cancer Awareness Day. You can book in for a Free mouth cancer screening, which only takes 10 minutes, by phoning us on 01 4542022.