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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 ask your dentist or dental hygienist.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

"I have been seeing Dr. Butler and his staff at BridgeCreek Prosthetic Dentistry for over five
years for regular dentistry and other oral health issues. Dr. Butler's approach to dentistry has
been perfect for my needs, as he understand and treats serious problems when they arise,
but also takes a conservative approach when it is warranted, and does not perform
unnecessary treatments or interventions. This has saved me not only significant sums of
money over what other care providers recommended for my oral health needs, but has also
saved me from a lot of unnecessary procedures and the pain and inconvenience related
thereto.

I would recommend Bridgecreek Prosthetic Dentistry to anyone, no matter what level of oral
health care you need."

J. Swift

Texas A & M
Texas Health Science Center
Baylor College of Dentistry

April 25, 2013

Dr. Dennis Waguespack, DDS

For some reason I cannot explain why I wanted to write you and Baylor College of Dentistry a letter. I am not good at letter writing, so I hope you understand, I am just trying to express my good feelings and appreciation of the professional service I received over the last year or so.

I have been attending the Baylor College of Dentistry for twenty years and been very pleased with all the services. About two years ago, I reached an important decision concerning the reconstruction of my entire mouth. After some careful and professional consulting with Dr. Nagy, we decided to proceed with a complete restoration of all my mouth.

I was very lucky to be picked / assigned to you.

I just wanted you and Baylor to know how pleased I am with all the extensive work you have performed on me for over a year. I now have totally functional teeth, as well as better aesthetics than anytime in my life. I am proud to smile and show all of my new teeth.

Dr. Waguespack, I wish you the very best in your new practice in Denver. I am so very pleased with your professionalism standards, perfect work, and your leadership with my issues. I would highly recommend you to anyone needing dentistry attention.


Regards

Edwin Stanaland

Edwin Stanaland

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