Preventative Oral Cancer Screening
In recent years, dental disease has been identified as an indication of more serious problems with general health. Information is being discovered linking unhealthy gums and teeth with problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. April has been designated as National Oral Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, over 100 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed per day in the United States. Mos
t cases are diagnosed in the later stages, making it difficult to treat successfully. As with most cancers, making a diagnosis as early as possible is the most important way to combat these daunting facts.
Alabama Family Dentistry plays a key role in oral cancer prevention and diagnosis. Early discovery of oral cancer is key and is important to screen for this deadly disease at each check-up. Patients understand that a visit to the dentist is not only about getting a cleaning or finding out if a filling is needed. It is about total health, and sometimes, life and death.
Are You at Risk?
Everyone should be aware of the risk factors associated with oral cancer. Studies have shown that lifestyle choices primarily leading to oral cancer include:
• Tobacco use – cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and snuff
• Alcohol consumption
• Viruses, such as HPV (human papilloma virus)
If you consider yourself potentially at risk, you should make it a priority to have an oral cancer screening for early detection. Patient awareness of the symptoms of oral cancer and screenings during your regular preventative dental care exam is the best way to be proactive.
The Signs of Oral Cancer
Though these factors have been identified as contributing to risk of developing oral cancer, the cause of oral cancer is not clearly defined and can be developed by anyone at any age. Regular oral cancer screenings are essential, as well as awareness of some of the signs and symptoms. Most of the early signs of oral cancer mimic more subtle, everyday abnormalities. Lesions, such as canker sores, herpes, or even ulcers from biting the tongue or lip, can be very similar to a pre-cancerous lesion. Many times the duration of a lesion is extremely important in determining the diagnosis. More simple problems, like the ones listed above, will usually change and heal within two weeks. In contrast, a pre-cancerous lesion will persist past this length of time. The symptoms of oral cancer include:
• Sores in the mouth or on the lip that bleed easily or do not heal
• White, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
• A thick or hard spot or lump
• A roughened or crusted area
• Hoarseness, change in voice, sore or painful throat that does not get better
• A feelng like something is stuck in throat, difficulty swallowing, or can’t speak properly
• Numbness, pain or tenderness anywhere in the face, mouth, or neck
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down or the way your denture fits
• Swollen and or tender lymph nodes
The Oral Cancer Screening Procedure
Alabama Family Dentistry uses an oral rinse to help identify, evaluate, monitor and mark suspicious oral lesions that may be difficult to see during a regular visual exam. The rinse solution desiccates the cells to make the nuclei more prominent and therefore, more visible. A low intensity handheld light is then inserted into the mouth to reflect off of any abnormal cells. Any abnormal cells will appear to “glow”. Your Alabama Family Dentist will check your entire mouth, tongue and throat for a glimmer of a “glow”. This simple procedure takes about two minutes and could save your life! Alabama Family Dentistry has four locations to serve you including: Warrior Family Dentistry, Gardendale Family Dentistry, Acton Road Family Dentistry in Vestavia Hills, and Sumiton Family Dentistry.