Oral cancer screening performed by Paxton, MA dentist
Did you know that over 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer each year, and one American dies every hour from the disease? One of the best ways to identify oral cancer in its early stages, when it is easiest to treat, is through oral cancer screening. At Paxton Dental Care in Paxton, MA, Dr. Scott Siemen performs annual oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental examinations.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in any of your oral tissues. In its early stages, it does not typically cause any pain and may just look like a flat patch in your mouth or a sore that doesn’t heal, so you may not know that it is cancer. Oral cancer is one of the most curable cancers if it is caught early, which is why regular oral cancer screenings by a qualified professional are important for your health.
Oral cancer can be successfully treated if caught at an early stage. If not treated early, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, making it more difficult to treat. Regular screening by your dentist or health care professional is very important, particularly if you fall within high-risk groups, heavy smoker and/or heavy drinker. The screening is very straightforward and begins with a visual examination of all soft tissue regions inside the mouth – top surface of the tongue, lateral border of the tongue, floor of the mouth, tissues inside of the cheeks, hard palate, soft palate, uvula and tonsils, tissues of upper jaw and tissues of the lower jaw. The soft tissue screening may be followed by a panoramic x-ray film to view the hard tissues and sinus spaces of the skull. Finally, the dentist may use a non-invasive specialized screening device that admits a particular wave length of blue light that excites natural fluorescent molecules in the tissues of the mouth. Healthy tissues fluoresce differently than the tissues that are disrupted by trauma or disease. The device can aid the dentist in discovering a wide array of abnormalities often before they are visible to the unassisted eye.
Oral cancer risk factors
Oral cancer can occur in anyone. While tobacco use is a known risk factor for oral cancer, it is estimated that one in four people who get the disease have never smoked and don’t have any other lifestyle-related risk factors. However, people who have the following risk factors are at a higher risk of developing the disease:
- Consume a large amount of alcohol
- Excessive exposure to the sun on your lips
- Weakened immune system
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) carriers
How oral cancer screenings are performed
To perform an oral cancer check, we use a technology called ViziLite Plus, which has been shown to be effective at identifying both pre-cancerous and cancerous areas in the mouth. Performing the screening is quick and pain-free. We give you a solution to rinse your mouth, and then use the specialized ViziLite Plus device to view the following areas of your mouth for any suspicious spots:
- Floor of the mouth
- Inside of cheeks
- Hard palate
- Soft palate
The whole process only takes a few minutes and is an important aspect of maintaining your oral health for years to come! To schedule your regular dental check-up and oral cancer screening, call Paxton Dental Care at (508) 557-2400 today.