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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.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

Dr. Hekmat and all of his staff are gentle and friendly. They take the fear out of going to the dentist. He has done quality work on my teeth for the last three years and fixed problems I had from previous, poor quality dental work too! I am more than willing to drive 40 miles from where I live because I've never had such a great dental experience anywhere else!

Taylor w

Dr. Hekmat is absolutely wonderful, I couldn't imagine going to anyone else. He and his entire staff are caring and knowledgable; the quality of care is as good as it gets.
This is not your typical dentist experience. When I walk in today for my appointment, there was no check-in process- the assistant working at the front desk recognized me and told me the hygienist would be with me shortly (2 minutes later, right on time). They actually take the time to get to know their patients, which is especially comforting for those of us who get a little antsy when it comes time for a dental appointment.
The facility is top-notch. It's incredibly clean, TV in the lobby, and the chairs have massagers in the back so you can focus on something besides having your teeth cleaned. The pictures on their website might look too good to be true, but it's just genuinely that nice.
Dr. Hekmat and his staff are all phenomenal. They know what they're doing, take the time to explain what they're doing, and to answer questions. I would recommend Dr. Hekmat to anyone looking for a dentist or to change dentists, he's the best!

Chelsea S.

Dr. Hekmat's offices are so clean, soothing, and modern that it almost (ALMOST ... it's still the dentist!) feels like visiting the spa when you visit. I drive up all the way from the UTC area because I trust him and his staff with my teeth and my jittery nerves! They even take a photo of you at your first visit, so that when you come back, the receptionist greets you by name and already knows who you are - very welcoming, and a unique touch. Even the lighting is warm and relaxing, and the view from the chair is of a large, grassy pond filled with ducks.

Dr. Hekmat himself is friendly, calming, and talented. He replaced several silver filings with white filings for me - and he was really, really fast. Which was really appreciated by me, because I'm a big baby when it comes to the dentist. Several months later, and I'm silver-free and my filings have done great.

Ann M.

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