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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 contact our practice.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

Dr. Salaveria and his staff were friendly, knowledgeable, professional, and they listened to me. I recently moved here from out of state and it looks like I've found my new dentist!

Sheridan S. Concord, CA

NO Pain! I am a HUGE baby when it comes to dental work and I am SO impressed. They made me feel comfortable and I am amazed that after a root canal, I had NO PAIN! Highly recommend their services. Their staff was wonderful from Rose at the front office to Brittany who assisted the procedure. Absolutely recommend!!!

Sue J. Concord, CA

My last experience at the dentist was as an uninsured individual about 6-8 years ago and I went to Western Dental. After almost 2 hours in their chair for 2 fillings and they had only gotten one of them done, I walked out of the office and never looked back. A few years went by and all of a sudden one of my molars caved in and I knew I had to get it taken care of. I now have insurance through my work and found Dr. Salaveria through their list of network providers. I saw all the positive reviews here on Yelp (and no negative ones...) and thought it was too good to be true but figured I would give them a shot. Best decision I ever made!

This is by far the best dentist experience I could have dreamed of. I had about 6 fillings done in less time than it took the Western Dental folks to do one. Not to mention he is very gentle and uses different techniques to make me comfortable since I have severe issues with my TMJ. I can almost fall asleep in his chair. They referred me out for two root canals (which have to be done by a specialist, and who they referred me to was also equally amazing) at this point and I have had one crown put in by them and will be having another crown done shortly. I can honestly say that I look forward to getting the work done with them. ....well... as much as anyone can look forward to dental work that is.

Bottom line: The reviews speak for themselves! Don't doubt it!

Jenna D. Concord, CA

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