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 ask your dentist or dental hygienist.

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Testimonials

Dr. Baltazar has been our family dentist for more than 20 years. In all that time, we have received only the absolute best quality care and treatment. His credentials, expertise and reputation are all impeccable.
Whether the treatment plan is simple or complex, he has always taken as much time as necessary to make sure we understand exactly what is to be done and why. We never feel like we're being rushed or being confused by complex technical jargon. One of my fears used to The Needle, but I am still continually amazed by his precise, gentle and deft administration of anesthesia. I actually sort of look forward to it!
His assistants and staff deserve praise, too. Both the front office staff and his technicians are always considerate, cheerful but also knowledgeable. Long-time office manager Cecilia has always been so helpful and friendly to us that we practically regard her as another family member.
Just as we came to Dr. Baltazar's practice by way of an enthusiastic recommendation from a trusted friend, we would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking for the best dentist in town.

Tim Scott and Linda Fetch

Dr. B.~ You have set a high bar of expectations for any dentist who treats me to attempt to reach. I cannot thank you enough for all of the outstanding care you have provided to me over these last few years. May the Lord bless you in the next 30 (or however many) years of your practice! With fond gratitude,

Margaret Lowing

You'll not find a more caring, personal dentist around! I've been going to him for over 10 years. My two young daughters even requested to go to him OVER their previous childhood dentist (who had video games and movies playing at all times) which says alot! Dr. Baltazar is a dentist you can trust with yourself and your family!

Christineh

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