ORAL CANCER SCREENING
Dental exams are a crucial part of your oral healthcare. They allow for the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of oral health issues in their earliest stages, preventing serious problems later on. At National Dental Sunnyside, we examine the condition of your teeth, checking for signs of damage and decay. We look at your gums, checking for signs of gum disease. We also perform an oral cancer screening.
WHAT IS ORAL CANCER?
Oral cancer is a broad term. It covers cancer that occurs anywhere in your mouth – your lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, palate, the floor of the mouth, or the entrance of your throat. Approximately 40,000 Americans are affected by this disease every year. Of those 40,000, about half survive longer than five years. Early detection and treatment are critical.
RISK FACTORS FOR ORAL CANCER
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of experiencing oral cancer. Some of these factors are within your control, while others are not:
- Smoking. Cigarettes, and other tobacco products, greatly increase your chances of developing oral cancer. These products contain thousands of chemicals. About 90% of all oral cancer patients were smokers.
- Excessive drinking. The occasional drink may not play a role in your risk, but excessive drinking can. Approximately 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients were heavy drinkers.
- Smoking and drinking. If you both smoke and drink excessively, your risk is exponentially increased.
- Your family history. Those who have family members who have had oral cancer are at an increased risk.
- Your age. Older adults are more likely to develop oral cancer.
- Certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV).
SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CANCER
Oral cancer symptoms can present themselves at any time. Knowing these symptoms will allow you to take action right away should they present themselves between your regular dental exams. Symptoms include:
- Red or white patches (or other unusual growths) on the soft tissues of your mouth.
- Sores that do not heal, even after two weeks.
- Difficulty with things such as eating, swallowing or breathing.
- Changes in your bite (or in the way that your dentures fit together).
- A numb feeling in your jaw or chin.
HOW IS ORAL CANCER DIAGNOSED?
At National Dental, we perform an oral cancer screening during each of your regular dental exams. During this screening, we check the tissues within your mouth, looking for signs of lesions or other unusual growths. We also look at your face and neck for signs of swelling.
If we do find anything odd, we will take digital images of your mouth, which will provide us with a more in-depth look at what is happening under your gums (such as changes in your jawbone). We will also order a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy is our best tool for confirming, or ruling out, the presence of oral cancer. It involves the removal of some of the tissue at the site of the lesion. There are several types of biopsy:
- Incisional or diagnostic biopsy. This type of biopsy is often done on larger lesions.
- Excisional biopsy. This is usually performed on smaller lesions and can be used to remove the entire thing.
- Punch biopsy. A special tool is used to remove several layers of tissue. It is usually used on lesions at the back of the mouth.
- Brush biopsy. Instead of cutting away a section of the lesion, cells are brushed from it.
If you notice anything odd in your mouth between your visits, don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment. Call National Dental Sunnyside right away at (718) 925-3365.