ORAL CANCER SCREENING
At National Dental Douglaston, we check your mouth for many different signs of damage. This includes cracks and fractures in the teeth, cavities, and gum disease. However, this isn’t all we look for. As a part of your regular oral exams, we also check your mouth for signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer is a devastating disease. Every year, it affects over 40,000 Americans, and only about half of those affected survive longer than five years. It can affect any area of the mouth – your lips, your tongue, your cheeks, your gums, the roof of your mouth or the entrance to the throat. No matter where it strikes, it can affect the normal functions of your mouth, including eating and speech. Oral cancer needs to be detected, and treated, early.
ARE YOU AT RISK FOR ORAL CANCER?
There are a few different factors, some controllable while others are not, that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer:
- Smoking, or using any other type of tobacco product: The use of any tobacco product can greatly increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Approximately 90% of oral cancer patients were, or still are, smokers.
- Excessive drinking: 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients were once heavy drinkers. Those who both smoke and drink have exponentially higher risks.
- Your age: Older adults have a higher risk of oral cancer.
- Family history: If someone in your family has suffered from oral cancer, your risk is greater.
- Certain strains of HPV
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS?
At National Dental, we perform an oral cancer screening during your regular dental exams. However, the symptoms of oral cancer can show up at any time, so knowing the warning signs is important:
- Red or white patches on the soft tissues inside your mouth
- Stubborn sores that refuse to heal, even after two weeks
- Unusual growths inside your mouth
- Trouble chewing, speaking or swallowing
- A change in your bite or, if you wear dentures, a change in the way your dentures fit together
- A numb feeling in your jaw or chin
HOW IS ORAL CANCER DIAGNOSED?
Part of diagnosing oral cancer involves a thorough oral inspection. If we do find anything unusual, we then move on to further testing. We may order imaging or conduct a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy is a critical tool for confirming an oral cancer diagnosis or ruling it out. There are a few different types of soft tissue biopsy:
- Incisional (diagnostic) biopsy
- Excisional biopsy: This type of biopsy is often used on smaller lesions and can be used as a treatment to remove the entire lesion.
- Punch biopsy: Often used for lesions in the back of the mouth, a special tool removes several layers of tissue for examination.
- Brush biopsy: Rather than removing a portion of the lesion, a brush is used to remove cells. This type of biopsy involves no incisions.
If you notice anything strange in your mouth, don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to address it. Contact National Dental Douglaston today at (718) 557-9882 to schedule your consultation!