Where Beauty, Health,
and Comfort Come Together

Your Dentist Can Detect Oral Cancer Early

The Two-Minute Exam That Could Save Your Life!

 According to the National Cancer Institute, over 36,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year and about 8,000 will die as a result. Worldwide, the problem is even more significant with over 640,000 new cases of oral and throat cancers found each year. Oral cancer can be difficult to detect because the cell changes that happen in the early stages of oral cancer development are not always noticeable during a routine oral cancer screening.  Often oral cancer is not found until it has spread to another part of the body and by then it is difficult to treat.  New technology is now available from your dental care provider that makes early detection easier.  It is called The VELscope Vx and it should be used in conjunction with the routine oral cancer screening your dentist does when you have your teeth cleaned.  It is a painless and harmless light that when directed into the mouth, causes precancerous cells to appear different than normal healthy cells making them easy to identify.

What Causes Oral Cancer:

Most people think of alcohol and tobacco abuse as the main culprits causing oral cancer, but research shows that some people with oral cancer have never smoked, used chewing tobacco or alcohol before.  It is unknown as to why some people with no identifiable risk factors develop oral cancer whereas others who have used alcohol and tobacco for a lifetime never will.  The following is a list of some of the risk factors that have been identified as increasing the risk of oral cancer:

  • Heavy Alcohol Use & Tobacco Products: heavy alcohol consumption and the use of tobacco products have been implicated in the cause of oral cancer.  The oral cancer rate increases with the length of time a person has used tobacco products and with the amount of alcohol a person consumes.
  • Human Papillomavirus Infection: new research is showing that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) may play a significant role in causing oral and throat cancers.  HPV is a family of about 200 viruses and some strains can infect the mouth and throat.  These viruses are usually contracted during sexual contact.   There is no cure for HPV and many people are unaware they have been infected because symptoms can take months to years to develop.
  • Sun Exposure: oral cancer can develop on the outside of the lips.  Increased sun exposure has been linked to cancer of the lips.  Sunscreen and limiting sun exposure can help reduce the risk of developing cancer of the lips.


The Importance of Early Detection:

When it comes to oral cancer, early detection is key. Before full-blown oral cancer develops, there are typically changes in cells and surface skin called dysplasia.  These early cell changes, the precursors to oral cancer, are often so subtle that it is difficult to detect even during a thorough oral cancer exam.  If dysplastic tissue is found, it can be conservatively removed before it turns into advanced cancer and invades surrounding structures.  The treatment of advanced stage oral cancer often leaves people disfigured.  Early detection makes for a good prognosis and allows the treatment to be minimally invasive.

Does Your Dentist Check For Oral Cancer?

An oral cancer exam should be a routine part of your biannual dental check-up.  It only takes a few minutes and your dentist or dental hygienist can perform it.  The soft tissues of the head, neck and mouth should be evaluated for abnormalities with special attention to the tongue as this is a common place for oral cancer to be found. In addition to the standard oral cancer screening, The VELscope Vx is a painless device that can be used to observe cell changes not normally visible.

The VELscope Vx:

The VELscope is a tool your dentist can use to help identify unhealthy differences in the cells of your mouth before they become obvious under ordinary light.  Unhealthy cells, called dysplasia, have certain characteristics or markers that make them different from normal healthy cells.  These markers are not always visible during a standard oral cancer exam and that is where The VELscope Vx comes in.  The VELscope Vx is a hand-held device that emits a blue colored light.  When this light is directed into the mouth on intra-oral tissues, the contrast between normal and abnormal cells is enhanced through a process called fluorescence.  An exam with The VELscope Vx typically takes about two minutes. In addition to oral cancer and dysplasia, The VELscope Vx can also aid in the detection of other oral conditions such as some mucosal infections, salivary gland tumors and inflammation.  Remember, early detection plays an important role in the survival rate of oral cancer.  Ask your dentist if you would benefit from an oral cancer screening with VELscope technology.

Marie Durflinger, RDH, DDS

Dr. Durflinger, a general and cosmetic Dentist, treats patients of all ages.   She has two convenient locations and over 25 years of experience in the dental field.  Owner of Auburn Family Dental in Auburn and Bella Dental Care in Bellevue.  Voted four consecutive years 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012 “Top Dentist” in the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.

Call today for your Free Oral Cancer Screening with the VELscope VX 253-833-2200

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 at 8:05 pm and is filed under Dr.Durflinger's Published Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.