Oral Pathology and Oral Medicine
In a healthy mouth, the inner lining is covered with mucosa, a type of skin that is smooth and pink. When changes to the appearance of the mucosa are noted, this could be a warning sign that something is going on with the health of your mouth, and the most serious concern is oral cancer. The following signs may indicate a cancerous growth or other pathological process:
These changes can be detected in the gum tissue, palate, cheeks, lips, face, tongue, or neck. Pain might occur, but isn't always present, especially with oral cancer. However, if you do notice any oral or facial pain without an obvious reason or cause, you should have an exam to check for oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Screenings
Periodic oral cancer screenings are essential for detecting a problem while it is still treatable. Most dentists will perform an exam of your mouth during a routine dental visit in order to screen for oral cancer, and factors that can increase your risk include:
In addition to looking for changes in the color of the inside of your mouth, your dentist may also feel the tissues of the mouth to check for abnormalities or lumps. If you wear dentures that can be removed, your dentist will ask you to take them out to better inspect the tissue located underneath them.
Oral Cancer Screening with VELScope
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with mouth or throat cancer in 2012.
Your mouth is part of the oral cavity, which also includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
During your dental visit, Dr. Layport will talk to you about your health history and examine these areas for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.
Treating Oral Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with oral cancer, you may need treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Before beginning treatment, other oral health issues may need to be addressed. Teeth that are in poor health due to cavities and periodontal disease may need to be extracted prior to oral cancer treatment in order to avoid post-radiotherapy surgery. This is essential because post-radiotherapy surgery can impact the blood supply to the jawbone, and may lead to osteonecrosis, a condition in which the jawbone loses its ability to repair itself.
We recommend that you perform monthly oral cancer self-exams to look for changes in the color and appearance of the inside of your mouth. Keep in mind that the mouth serves as one of the most important warning systems of the body, so you should always be on the lookout for signs of changes. Never ignore a suspicious sore or lump. If you've noticed a change that you feel could be a sign of oral pathology, don't hesitate to call us at 503-620-1117. We'll set up a consultation to find out exactly what's going on in your mouth.
Dr. Layport has a particular interest in oral medicine and has been in the Oral Medicine Study Club with the OAGD for more than 20 years. Conditions such as lichen planus and benign mucous membrane pemphigoid are common conditions often mistaken for gum disease. Growths on the gum or lips such as pyogenic granulomas or fibromas can be easily removed and submitted for biopsy if necessary. Lasers as well as conventional instruments offer simple and often nearly painless removal of these growths.