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Oral Cancer Exam

According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.  More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient.  The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable.  This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important.  Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma.  The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma.  This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.

There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
  • Gums
  • Face

Reasons for oral cancer examinations

It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.  Your dentist can provide literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking cessation.

When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective.  Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible.  During the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.

The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:

  • Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.

  • Leukoplakia – This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.

  • Lumps – Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathological problems.

Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment

The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process.  During the visual part of the examination, the dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps.  Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks.  The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.

If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan.  In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed.  The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.

Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken.  Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats.  Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

During bi-annual check-ups, the dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.

If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please contact our practice.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

Dr. Lois is extremely patient and professional. I generally dread my dental appointments, but after seeing Dr. Lois, I feel very comfortable.
I had two fillings to do and was scared of pain involved in the procedure. She eased me into it with some smooth jazz and distracted me while she numbed my gums. I hardly realized how time flew and before I knew it, I was on my way out with a smile on my face. I have had two appointments for cleaning before this, and those went pretty smooth too. She generally doesn't do the cleanings herself (she did my first though), but I remember her hygienists being quite good.I highly recommend Dr. Lois to anyone who wants a pain-free and gentle treatment.

Sam D.

I have been a patient of Dr. Wilson for more than a decade and she is the best dentist with whom I have ever been affiliated: consummately professional, extremely knowledgeable; and selflessly dedicated. During our long association, she has cured me of gingivitis and other gum and tooth infections; made dental appliances to minimize damage to my crowns; installed an implant; and repaired a half dozen instances of broken crowns. In the latter instance, when I inadvertently broke a crown or damaged a veneer, she would immediately adjust her schedule to accommodate my dental emergency, regardless as to the personal sacrifice involved. As a doctor she was patient with me; listened well; accommodated my busy schedule; and charged very reasonable prices for world class dental services. In every instance in which we interacted, I was completely satisfied with the outcome. If I had to describe Dr. Wilson as a person in a single word, that word would be, "class". If I had to describe her professional skills in a phrase, that phrase would be , "She's a dentist's dentist". Dr. Wilson is a GREAT dentist and has my highest recommendation.

Robert N.

Lois Wilson was my dentist before I moved away, and she is amazing. She is extremely professional, and her work is so good, I can't tell which teeth she has worked on (and neither can my new dentist!).

My teeth are generally pretty healthy, but I went to Dr. Wilson's office for cleanings, she did two fillings for me, a composite bonding on one of my front teeth, and an in-office whitening. She generally doesn't do the cleanings herself, but I remember her hygenists being quite good, and not too rough.

My new dentist even gave her work high compliments, because they had a hard time figuring out which teeth she had worked on. They said that my prior dentist did a VERY good job color matching my teeth.

Jason G.

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Contact Us. We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.

Contact Us

We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.