Oral Cancer Screening
This year, nearly 10,000 people will die of oral cancer. This disease is appallingly quiet and often asymptomatic until it progresses into a more advanced stage of the disease, making early detection vital for survival. Because the symptoms of oral cancer can be so difficult to detect, getting routine dental exams is extremely important to ensure that this disease is caught early. Here at Wendy Sanger DMD Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, not only are we dedicated to protecting your teeth and gums from tooth decay and gum disease, we will also thoroughly screen your mouth to check for early signs of oral cancer and, if detected, see that you get the life-saving treatment that you deserve.
What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening
The five-year survival rate is a grim 60%, but that number increases dramatically if the disease is caught early. While you can take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place, routine dental exams are key to helping make sure that the cancer is caught while it's still at a treatable stage.
What We Do During Your Dental Exam
Not only are we checking for gum disease and tooth decay, but we also will take your medical history and thoroughly examine your mouth for any changes to your health. Because oral cancer can appear anywhere inside your mouth, we will take care to inspect your entire mouth, including your cheeks, the back of your tongue, your tonsils, and your soft palate. We also will palpitate (press and feel) your neck and jaw to see if there are any new lumps or masses forming.
Early Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Signs of oral cancer vary patient by patient, but it does have some stereotypical manifestations that we look for. Because it's often hard to detect these signs by yourself, we stress the importance of regular dental exams to give us the opportunity to look for these symptoms. These include:
People who are at elevated risk are those who smoke or use tobacco products and drink excessive alcohol. Men are at double risk than women for developing oral cancer, and seniors (people over the age of 50) are more likely to develop oral cancer. Exposure to the HPV virus also increases risk.
Poor oral hygiene is also associated with oral cancer, as the toxins given off by the periodontal disease bacteria can increase inflammation in the body. The same bacteria found in plaque has been found inside cancerous tissue, making a combined effort of good oral hygiene and routine dental appointments that much more critical.
If we detect suspicious tissue in our patients, we may advise a biopsy of the lesion to send to a lab for testing. A follow-up appointment in two weeks following the discovery of the possible cancerous tissue may also be required to help us track any changes and make decisions about how to move forward with treatment.
If you have a family history of oral cancer or fall within the at-risk demographic, give our office at Wendy Sanger DMD Cosmetic and Family Dentistry a call at (908) 647-4441 to allow our highly skilled and trained staff to promptly assess your oral health. Routine dental checkups aren't just about a having pretty smile; they can quite literally save your life.