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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 contact our practice.

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Testimonials

I WISH I COULD GIVE YOU 10 STARS!!!!
Omg!!! SOOOOO happy I found you!!!
I've had these 4 veneers on my front teeth for about 5 years, put on, again, and again and again, after pop offs and cracks and breaks, and several thousands of dollars, by another Santee dentist's office (won't mention who).
After about 4 years of miraculously no problems, I felt a familiar crunch while biting into a fish taco... I was so upset, I just froze staring at this tiny piece of porcelain in my hand. The tears starting welling up as I was reminded of the nightmares I often have of this exact thing happening on a date, or during a job interview... I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy the rest of my mom's birthday lunch w my daughters, and luckily, I decided to drive myself. I held back the tears, apologized and asked that they wrap up the rest of my meal and I'll see you at home, and ran to my car, wanting to just vomit.... I'm not too vain, am I?
Not just for vanities sake, but the thought of coming up with another 2 grand to fix this, again, was taunting me! My head was spinning. I felt like I had been kicked in the jaw - literally.
First thing I did, after having a few glasses of wine to calm down, was do a search on Yelp. Dr. Fossett was the first to come up -- but still wanted to give my old office a chance, seeing as especially how They WERE THE ONES WHO PUT THE ORIGINALS ON. But, they offered no rest for my weary soul -- no discounts, no deals and no financing. And a replacement will cost @2000!!
I called Dr. Fossetts office next and was enchanted by Robyn, who understood my plight and offered all the help she could; gave me a rough estimate on cost (final cost was LESS than what she quoted!), and applied for Care Credit for me over the phone.
I could go on and on about how my appointment went -- didn't even have to sit or wait, was brought back for a consultation immediately. Not expecting to have everything even started the same day, the assistant and Dr. Dave came back in two minutes and said, let's get started!
Not more than 30 minutes later, I looked in the mirror to the most gorgeous "Temporary" veneer I have ever seen!! I mean, I'd be happy w this for years! The last office would spackle on this horrible looking crap that had no esthetically pleasing value at all!! THIS is a premier job!
And I'm a chronic perfectionist! Especially when it comes to my looks (hair, teeth, ect).
SO IF IM HAPPY, YOU BETTER KNOW THE JOB WAS STELLAR!!!
Thank you Dr. Fossett and staff-- THANK YOU!!!

Vanessa M.

Yesterday was my first visit to this wonderful Dental office. I haven't felt more welcome and comfortable in a Dental facility since I was 19... Now 31 years young. I grew up, going to a father/son dental group and Dr. David and Dr. Douglas Fossett had the same family centered vibe and conservative but smart dental care I've been searching for! As a Registered Nurse, quality care and patient centered care is the core of my own practice. Dr. David and Dr. Douglas exemplify this to a tee! I've finally found my go to family Dental office. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after getting a second option from these very well informed Dentists!

Haylee R.

Great office!!! From the moment I walked in I felt very welcomed by the staff. I'm always nervous when going to the dentist no matter how many times I go, however after my visit to Dr. Fossett's office I felt much more relaxed and at ease. They did everything they could to make me comfortable. I felt the staff was very knowledgeable and answered any questions I had. The assistants are top notch . The smiles , kind hearts and exceptional service will keep me coming back. Thank you to the office for a positive experience.

Rachel Y.

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