At National Dental Hicksville, we perform regular oral exams, during which we inspect your teeth and gums for signs of damage, tooth decay, and gum disease. However, this is only a part of your exam. Included in your oral exam is an oral cancer screening.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is a serious disease that has a serious impact on the daily functions of your mouth, not to mention your overall wellbeing. Every year, it affects approximately 40,000 people across the United States. It can affect anywhere inside of your mouth, including your lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, palate, and the back of your mouth near the entrance to your throat. It is fatal cancer, with just about half of those diagnosed surviving past five years. Early detection, and therefore early treatment, however, can greatly increase your chances of survival.

Are You at Risk for Oral Cancer?

There are several factors that can increase your likelihood of developing oral cancer:

  • Smoking, or the use of other tobacco products (such as chewing tobacco). Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain many harmful chemicals. Those who smoked, or have used chewing tobacco, in the past, are at a much greater risk for developing oral cancer. Up to 90% of oral cancer patients have used tobacco products.
  • Excessive alcohol use. Between 70% and 80% of oral cancer patients were heavy drinkers. If you smoke and drink, your risk is increased exponentially.
  • Family history. If someone in your family has had oral cancer in the past, you are at an increased risk.
  • Age. Older adults are more likely to develop oral cancer.
  • Certain strains of HPV can increase your risk.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

An oral cancer screening is a part of your regularly scheduled oral exams. During these exams, we check the inside of your mouth for anything unusual and check the outside of your mouth (your face and neck) for signs of swelling. However, oral cancer will not conveniently wait until your dental exams to show up. Knowing what to look for is essential in early intervention:

  • Unusual growths inside your mouth, such as red or white patches.
  • Sores that do not heal, even after a couple of weeks.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or even speaking.
  • A change in your bite, or in the way your dentures fit.
  • Numbness in your jaw.

How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

A visual inspection of the inside of your mouth is only a part of the diagnostic process. We will also take some images so that we can get a better picture of what is happening under the gums. One of our most important diagnostic tools is a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy is a simple procedure that involves removing a small section of a suspect lesion inside your mouth so that we can further examine it under a microscope. This test is the best way to confirm or rule out oral cancer. There are a few different types of soft tissue biopsy:

  • Incisional, or diagnostic, biopsy.
  • Excisional biopsy, which often removes the entire lesion.
  • Punch biopsy, which removes several layers of the lesion using a special tool.
  • Brush biopsy, which uses a brush to simply remove cells from the lesion without a surgical procedure.

Oral cancer is a devastating disease that should be treated right away. If you notice any signs or symptoms, or are concerned about something in your mouth, contact National Dental Hicksville today at (516) 629-5086.