Oral cancer is defined as the occurrence of malignant cells on the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, under tongue, hard palate, soft palate, throat, tonsils, the area in back of the wisdom teeth and the oropharynx. The most common cause of oral cancer is the HPV16 virus. The death rate that is associated with this type of cancer is unusually high because it is typically diagnosed in the later stages of development. There is no comprehensive program in the United States to strategically test for this disease since the medical society as a whole disagrees on the benefits of routine oral cancer screening. According to the American Dental Association, all adults should have routine oral exams when they go to the dentist. The American Cancer Society suggests that you visit with your dentist about routine screening for oral cancer, whereas the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate the benefits for routine screening or against routine screening. There are other tests that some dentists use as part of the screening process, such as an oral dye test or a special light test, but there are no clear indicators that these offer any additional benefits to the oral screening process. It is also unclear as to what insurance companies will pay for these additional tests.
Since there is no standard of routine oral cancer screening, most dentists will visually screen for any abnormalities in your mouth during a routine dental appointment. These abnormalities can be small white patches, red bumps or sores. They might also feel the tissue inside your mouth, including your tongue and cheeks for any lumps. This is a routine preliminary screening, but the HPV16 virus does not produce any visible bumps or discolorations for the dentist to detect. At Lynn Dental Care, we don’t just do routine oral cancer screening; we believe that early indicators are the best way to protect our patients from the risk of a late stage diagnosis of oral cancer. We offer a non-invasive test that helps us identify any oral cancer that might be in your mouth with the most advanced Velscope light, pinpointing possible risk areas. This helps Dr. Lynn to determine your risk factor for getting oral cancer which determines how we monitor your condition.
We can use the results of this test, along with other risk factors that should be taken into account when determining if you might be at risk for oral cancer. If you use any type of tobacco product, such as cigarettes, pipes, tobacco, snuff or cigars, you are at an increased risk of having oral cancer. If you are a heavy drinker or if you have had a previous diagnosis of oral cancer, you are at an increased risk of getting oral cancer. These risk factors combined with our screening test allows us to be better equipped to monitor your ongoing dental health.
Lynn Dental Care believes in giving our patients as much oral health information as possible, which helps us diagnose and detect disease in the early and treatable stage. The most important factor in preventing oral cancer is good dental hygiene habits, being proactive and committed to advanced oral screening and having an open line of communication with your dentist. Lynn Dental Care provides this service to all of our patients.