Cancer of the Mouth
Modern dentistry is about more than just healthy teeth. At BGW that means we care for your complete oral health – which is why we are always on guard against oral cancer.
There is a reason for that. According to the National Institute of Health, oral cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States – that equates to about 53,000 new cases each year.
And the key to successfully treating oral cancers – like so many other types of cancer – is vigilance and early detection.
That is why we utilize the latest technology and techniques to ensure that our patients know everything that is going on with their oral health. Led by the efforts of Dr. Cindy Fulenwider Greene, we will help you stay on top of your oral health – and get you the treatment you need should anything arise.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in any of the parts of the mouth. This means that oral cancer can develop in the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, or floor of the mouth.
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women. And most oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcohol use (or both), or infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in a part of your mouth. Most all of us have experienced sores in our mouths – the difference with oral cancer is that this sore will not heal. So be wary of any sore that forms in your mouth and does not heal (or at least begin to heal) within a few days. These types of sores usually feature a white or reddish patch that is tender to the touch.
But sores aren’t the only symptom of oral cancer and other signs include:
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
A cancerous growth could even lead to loose teeth. So, if you have any noticeable and/or unexplained symptoms such as these, it is best to make an appointment with your dentist and let them examine your mouth.
How do we screen for oral cancer?
As with any cancer, one of the key components of successfully treating oral cancer is early detection. That is why BGW dentists and staff conduct thorough oral cancer screenings during every twice-yearly exam. We will also conduct a thorough exam if you are experiencing any sudden symptoms, zeroing in on any sore or other possible symptom.
Even during routine exams, we make sure to scan for any signs of early-stage oral cancer. This includes utilizing a cancer screening light. Shining this light in your mouth makes healthy tissue appear dark and makes abnormal tissue appear white.
We also have access to oral cancer screening dyes. During this procedure, you rinse your mouth with a special dye. Any abnormal cells in your mouth absorb the dye and thus become more obvious.
Our caring team will also check your throat and neck for lumps. If we find any abnormality we will proceed from there, ensuring that you are fully informed of each step.
What do we do if we detect an abnormality?
Just because we find something unusual, does not necessarily mean that you have oral cancer. That is why we judge each case carefully and determine the best course of action. It may simply be that we schedule a follow-up visit in a few weeks to further examine the abnormality and see if it is still present or if it has grown or changed.
We can also perform a biopsy to remove a sample of cells for laboratory testing to determine whether cancer cells are present. In fact, our oncological expertise and abilities go far beyond a typical dental visit.
Led by Dr. Greene, our staff has participated in extensive training that allows us to assist patients with all types of cancer, including the oral complications associated with treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
BGW Dental Group works closely with medical and cancer care providers throughout our community here in north Georgia, maintaining an open line of communication in order to best serve our patients. This allows us to treat you better, detailing your care around your specific needs. And we pride ourselves on being able to educate and support patients before, during, and after their oral cancer therapies. Our goal is to provide excellent comprehensive dental care while improving and maintaining optimal systemic health.
Head and neck cancer rates – which include oral cancers – are on the rise in the United States, and the medical community is learning more about these types of cancer each day. For instance, researchers have discovered that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus responsible for cervical cancers, is a prominent cause of most head and neck cancers. This means that living a healthy lifestyle and abstaining from alcohol and tobacco may not decrease your risk of head and neck cancers.
Don’t wait, schedule an appointment now
Detection of oral cancers is a complex process, as they occur predominantly in the tonsils, throat, base of the tongue, and larynx, which is why we educate our patients on the warning signs of these cancers and when to seek further testing. But you cannot be certain of safety unless you are being screened. We do so twice a year for all patients and can see any patient that is experiencing worrying symptoms.