Hey all! I wanted to talk about something today that we feel really passionate about at Healthy Smiles, educating our patients on oral cancer.
It can sound really scary, but the good news is that with early detection treatment is much easier. We want to spread the word that coming to our office for your check-up is about more than just caring for your teeth and gums! Another crucial role we play is making sure that the rest of your mouth is healthy by performing regular oral cancer screenings. This type of cancer has been on the rise, and it is estimated that 42,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year (1). Sadly, the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high, not because it is hard to discover, but because it’s routinely discovered late in its development (1). In our efforts to detect oral cancer at an early stage, both the doctor, and your dental hygienist will perform a screening every six months at your check-up. We perform screenings on all of our patients over the age of 14.
During your check-up appointment, we’ll thoroughly examine all the tissues in the mouth and throat visually, as well as feel the floor of the mouth, which is comfortable and only takes a few minutes. We also highly recommend the Velscope screening once per year, an inexpensive $15 exam done with a special light to help us see things beneath the tissue that may not be visible to the naked eye. The exam is painless and works by fluorescing all the cells of the mouth. All the normal cells will appear green, while any rapidly dividing or otherwise unhealthy cells will appear dark and stand out from the rest of the tissue. If anything out of the ordinary is detected, we refer to one of Dr. Saber or Dr. DeMasi’s trusted specialists right away for further evaluation.
Not only do we perform a thorough screening each time you come in, we also educate you about the causes of oral cancer. Many people know about smoking and alcohol use as risk factors, but it has recently been discovered that the HPV (human papilloma) virus is the second leading cause of oral cancer (2). HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world and is also the leading cause of cervical cancer. Oral cancer has been on the rise in people between the ages of 18-30 with no history of alcohol use or smoking – many of these cases have been attributed to the HPV virus. Oftentimes, people have no idea that they have HPV at all. It’s easily spread through skin-to-skin contact, making it relatively easy to contract. This is one more reason that it’s so important that everyone has an oral cancer screening every six months, because early detection saves lives.
On a final note, it’s important to know that normal injuries in the mouth should heal on their own within ten days. To promote healing and sooth the tissue, you can swish with salt water a few times a day (use about ¼ teaspoon of salt in a regular sized glass of water.) If you ever have any kind of wound or injury, or even a sore throat, that doesn’t go away after ten days please let us know.
The following websites have great information if you’d like to learn more. Or feel free to visit us at Healthy Smiles – we’re more than happy to discuss the topic more with you in person.
1) The Oral Cancer Foundation: http://oralcancerfoundation.org/
2) Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/topics/cancer.htm
3) Velscope: http://www.velscope.com/
Erin is of our fabulous Hygienists. Check out her profile on our Facebook page :
Healthy Smiles Dental Group Portland Oregon