Oral Cancer

Nov 11

Oral cancer is best treated in the early stages.  Prevention is one of the best tools healthcare providers have to keep patients healthy.

“The prevention of disease today is the one of the most important factors in the line of human endeavor.” – Charles Mayo (Cofounder of the Mayo Clinic). 

Dr. Newman, Dr. Miller, and the staff at Bellefonte Family Dentistry believe in this philosophy in all aspects of dentistry, especially oral cancer.

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral pharyngeal cancer this year, causing roughly 8,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.  Though dentists have stepped up as one of the first line detectors of the disease, there is still a 57% five year survival rate.  Today, the death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high due to it routinely being discovered at later stages in development.  It is a dangerous disease because it typically goes unnoticed by the patient.  However, some may notice:  pain /difficulty swallowing, a feeling of a lump in your throat, numbness, a sore that does not heal, and/or persistent hoarseness.  Overall, visual inspection is still one of the best aids in early prevention.

Treatment of oral cancer is typically multifaceted, including help from surgeons, radiation oncologists, dental practitioners, nutritionists, and restorative specialists.  Usually, the cancer is removed via surgery, which is followed up with chemotherapy and/or radiation to eradicate any cancerous cells that are not removable by surgery alone.  Typically, treatment is started by focusing the patient’s teeth and periodontal (gum) disease to prevent any post-therapeutic complications.  Any type of cancer treatment (even not in the oral cavity) can increase the likelihood of cavities and dry mouth.  Our patients are given our fluoride trays and Biotene-like rinses to help maintain existing teeth, as well as keep the mouth moist, respectively.

At Bellefonte Family Dentistry, we care about our patients.  We routinely screen patients for any unusual structures, or changes in tissue that we feel may require further treatment.  The oral cancer screening typically includes inspecting the oral soft tissue (cheeks, gums, surrounding bone, pharynx, tonsils, tongue, and the floor of the mouth) for any color changes, lumps, or unusual growths.  We also examine the head and neck (palpating lightly) for any lumps that may occur within the lymph nodes, salivary glands, and thyroid.  If we detect any of the above, we promptly take pictures (if applicable) and refer you to a specialist for biopsy and treatment.

We hope to see you soon so that we may continue providing healthy, beautiful smiles.

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