ORAL CANCER SCREENING
Regular dental exams are an important part of taking good care of your mouth. Exams allow us to spot issues in their earliest stages, allowing us to treat them, and prevent them from becoming worse. At National Dental Oakland Gardens, a part of your oral exam consists of an oral cancer screening.
Oral cancer is a serious oral health issue. It can present itself almost anywhere inside your mouth – your lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, palate, or the entrance to your throat. It can have a significant impact on the daily functions of your mouth.
Every year, oral cancer affects approximately 40,000 people across the US. It is fatal when not treated early on, with only about half of those diagnosed surviving more than five years. Early detection and treatment can go a long way in increasing your chances of survival.
RISK FACTORS FOR ORAL CANCER
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer:
- Smoking (or other tobacco products). Cigarettes have several harmful chemicals in them. Those who have been smokers, or have used other tobacco products, are much more likely to develop oral cancer. Approximately 90% of oral cancer patients have been smokers at some point.
- Excessive drinking. Approximately 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients have been heavy drinkers. Those who smoke and drink have their chances of developing oral cancer increased exponentially.
- Your Age. The older you are, the greater your chances.
- Family history. If someone in your immediate family has had oral cancer, you have a greater risk.
- Certain strains of HPV..
ORAL CANCER SYMPTOMS
When you come in for your regular dental exams, we perform an oral cancer screening. We check inside your mouth, checking for unusual developments in your mouth, as well as your face and neck for signs of swelling. However, oral cancer can strike at any moment. There are several symptoms that you can be on the lookout for, and if you notice them, you should call right away:
- Unusual growths in your mouth.
- Red or white patches on the soft tissues of your mouth.
- Sores that do not heal.
- A change in the way your teeth, or your dentures, fit together.
- Difficulty speaking, eating and swallowing.
- A numb feeling in your chin or jaw.
DIAGNOSING ORAL CANCER
Finding an oddity in your mouth is just the beginning of your oral cancer diagnosis. We will also take digital images to get a complete picture of what is going on inside your mouth. Our most important diagnostic tool, however, is a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy will help us to diagnose or rule out oral cancer. There are a few different types of soft tissue biopsies:
- Incisional, or diagnostic. This is often used for larger lesions.
- Excisional, which is frequently used for smaller lesions. It can even be used to remove the entire lesion altogether.
- Punch. Using a special tool, we remove several layers of the tissue for examination.
- Brush. With this biopsy, we use a brush to remove some cells from the lesion, avoiding the need for any incisions.
Detecting and diagnosing oral cancer early is key to successful treatment. If you notice any signs or symptoms that something is wrong with your mouth, contact National Dental Oakland Gardens at (718) 407-0574 to schedule your appointment today.