Westpark Helpful Dental Articles
Oral Cancer Can Be Devastating - Dr. Gallagher Recommends Screenings
In dentistry oral cancer is a very serious concern, which we screen for when we see our patients. Most people are not aware of how insidious this disease can be, because symptoms are almost nonexistent until the patient either has pain or swelling, or a sore that will not heal over time. Any time a patient comes in for any visit, whether it be with the hygienist or with one of the doctors, we are always on the lookout for oral cancer. Cancer typically starts on the side of the tongue, the floor of the mouth, or the posterior pharynx. If patients are smokers that puts them at a higher risk.
All our staff members are well versed in the oral cancer screening, what to look for and what to do if they find something suspicious. This cancer screening also includes examining the lymph nodes. If there is a sore or a spot of some kind anywhere in the mouth that has persisted, then we let the patient know what we see and we recommend a follow-up with either an oral surgeon or another specialist for an examination and biopsy if indicated. It is very important not to ignore something in the mouth that will not go away, because once oral cancer gets established, the morbidity and mortality are not good—it is a devastating disease.
Modern technology in dentistry includes using lights and rinses to look for cancers. Unfortunately, these tests, while useful, create too many false positives which can cause the patient undue anxiety. We no longer use these types of tests because they are not sufficiently reliable. In our practice we have the experience to be able to visually and manually distinguish the margins of a lesion to determine when it is time to refer the patient to a specialist for further examination and treatment.
Dr. Michael E. Gallagher
West Park Dental
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