Oral Cancer screening is an important preventative health measure. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal (throat) cancer this year. It will cause over 8000 deaths, killing approximately 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day.
Of those 40,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years!
However, those who undergo regular screenings have dramatically improved outcomes.
At Old Town Smiles, we take your oral health seriously and encourage all our patients to take control of their health with routine oral cancer screenings.
About Oral Cancer
More people are being diagnosed with oral cancer than ever before. In the past, traditional risk factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and using chewing tobacco were considered the only cause of oral cancer, usually found in people 40 and older. Oral cancer is now being found in a younger population of women and men due to their exposure to the HPV ( Human Papillomavirus). That is why the Center for Disease Control recommends that all patients over the age of 17 be screened annually for oral cancer.
The beginning stages of oral cancer include a sore that develops in the mouth. This sore will be unique because it will not heal. Oral cancer may also show up as a lump or as a white or red patch inside your mouth. The symptom will not go away and if you notice anything similar you should have the area examined immediately.
Oral cancer is treated similarly to other cancerous diseases. A biopsy will be taken of the suspected tissue and if it is confirmed to be cancerous, surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy might be recommended by a physician.
At Old Town Smiles, we treat not only your oral health but also your overall health. Preventative measures will ensure you live a long, healthy life.
Risk Factors That Increase The Likelihood Of Oral Cancer
There are many factors that can put you at risk of developing oral cancer. Being aware of these risks and limiting your exposure to them will decrease your likelihood of developing oral cancer. These risks include:
OVERINDULGENCE IN ALCOHOL
Oral cancers are more likely to develop in people who drink excessively.
SMOKING AND TOBACCO PRODUCTS
Individuals who smoke have a higher chance of developing oral cancer. This includes people who smoke cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. People who engage in snuff tobacco (tobacco inhaled through the nose) or chewing tobacco (tobacco placed between the gums and lips) have a very high likelihood of developing cancers in their cheek, gums, and lining of the lips. This is due to the exposure of oral tissue to tobacco which is a carcinogen.
HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV)
Certain HPV strains can contribute to different types of oral cancer including a type of head and neck cancer referred to as OSCC. Women have a higher risk of developing this form of cancer and should receive regular screenings to stay healthy.
We are all genetically predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions due to our genetic makeup. Some people have an increased likelihood of developing oral cancer. Learn more about your family history to understand if you have a higher risk of developing diseases such as oral cancers. Knowing this information will help you understand the personal measures you need to take to remain healthy.
EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE
Similar to skin cancer, oral cancer can develop in your lips due to an unhealthy amount of sun exposure. We are particularly at risk when we are younger and our skin is still developing.
Smoking and alcohol consumption does not always put you at risk for oral cancer.
Less than half of the people who develop oral cancer will not smoke and rarely drink. This is why regular oral cancer screening is important!
By striving to lead a healthy life and practice good oral health habits, we reduce our chances of developing oral cancer and make early detection possible.
Who Is A Candidate For An Oral Cancer Screening?
Everyone is at risk of oral cancer and should be receiving regular screenings. However, if you relate to any of the above risk factors and have noticed new growths, discolorations or sores that are not going away, we strongly encourage you to have them checked out. Oral cancer is preventable when caught in the early stages.
What Is An Oral Cancer Screening?
An oral cancer screening is a thorough examination of the mouth. One of Old Town Smile’s highly-qualified dentists will examine your mouth looking for cancer or precancerous signs and conditions. The goal is to identify cancer early on, increasing your chances for a successful cure.
Along with regular examinations from your dentist, you can also examine yourself for oral cancer. Self-Examination can be easily performed with a mirror and flashlight. Perform a visible check of your mouth so as to spot any irregularities. Continue by feeling along your gums, along with the roof and floor of your mouth, your cheeks and then move onto the lymph nodes of your neck and jaw.
If you notice any irregularities or changes, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Your self-examinations should not take the place of dental examinations as the dentists performing the regular check-ups have extensive knowledge of oral anatomy, have received specific training for detecting oral cancer and have unique tools to identify cancerous growths.
How Is The Screening Performed?
The doctors use a special screening technology that has proven successful in identifying soft tissue abnormalities, which in combination with a routine visual examination, provide comprehensive oral screening for their patients.
The VELscope is a handheld device that emits a harmless, bright blue light which is used to inspect the mouth and tongue. The device is sensitive to abnormal tissue changes and the distinctive blue- spectrum light causes the soft tissue of the mouth to fluoresce.
The VELscope helps visualize abnormal oral tissue such as potential cancerous or precancerous tissues that are not apparent with the naked eye alone.
The dentist will also look and feel for signs around the mouth, neck, and head for any irregularities. The screening is relatively quick and can be made a part of your routine dental check-ups.
Benefits of Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer is one of the most curable disease when it is caught early.
Early detection and diagnosis can make a tremendous difference in life expectancy: oral cancer is 90% curable in its early stages.
Having this screening performed at your dental cleanings will give you peace-of-mind and increase your likelihood of catching any developments early on.
We offer many different preventative treatments at our office, these include professional teeth cleanings, dry mouth therapy, and fluoride treatment.
PROFESSIONAL TEETH CLEANINGS
Professional teeth cleaning is one of the best ways to improve your oral health and improve the longevity of your radiant smile. Cleanings can occur anywhere from three, four to six months. We focus on your periodontal (gum and bone) health and customize your treatment to perform comfortable cleanings.
Professional cleanings will include removing unhealthy deposits that break down your teeth. Removing these deposits will help to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Gum disease is important to treat as it increases your risk for other health issues such as heart attacks, diabetes, and many others. This treatment will improve your overall health and will leave your teeth shiny and smooth!
DRY MOUTH THERAPY
This treatment is perfect for patients who commonly experience dry mouth. This condition is caused by a reduction in saliva production. This decreased production causes the PH level of your mouth to change, leaving your teeth vulnerable to an increase in bacteria. Patients commonly develop a strong odor, discomfort, and cavities when the condition is not treated.
Patients who have an extensive medication routine and are undergoing an illness such as cancer can develop dry mouth.
We offer therapy that will help reduce these symptoms and improve your oral health and comfort. A dietary plan and products such as fluoride, Xylitol rinses and Evorapro ( an oral probiotic) will help reduce dry mouth symptoms and help to preserve your teeth’s health.
This is an easy add-on to your regular teeth cleanings. Fluoride is commonly used to help prevent tooth decay. A fluoride treatment will help to strengthen your teeth, reduce plaque, bacteria, and sugar from gathering on your teeth and breaking them down. Using fluoride right after a professional cleaning is most beneficial. Using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse should be a healthy part of your daily oral care routine at home.
We suggest a professional grade fluoride treatment after your professional cleaning to help maintain your oral health.
This treatment can help to reverse the signs of early tooth decay and is recommended at least once a year for adults.
These preventative treatments will help elongate your oral health and, in the case of oral cancer screening, your life expectancy. If you are interested in any of these preventative treatments plan, we encourage you to reach out to our offices.
Old Town Smiles is proud to offer preventative oral cancer screenings and top-tier oral hygiene treatments to our clients across Alexandria.