Oral Cancer Awareness: The Importance of VELscope Exam & Routine Dental Care

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and we are dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge of oral cancer and its dangers. Early detection is crucial in the successful treatment of oral cancer. The more advanced cancer, the more difficult it is to treat and the lower the odds of survival. That’s why it is highly recommended to have regular oral cancer screenings that examine the entire mouth.

Many people are surprised to learn that oral cancer is not painful in the early stages. This leads to missed symptoms in many people who assume if something doesn’t hurt, there is nothing wrong. Unfortunately, oral cancer isn’t painful until the most advanced stages. Any time there is a change in the tissues of your mouth, gums, or throat, you should make an appointment to evaluate the lesion or lump.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

There are many reasons an individual might develop oral cancer. Some can be modified or eliminated to reduce risk, but there is sometimes no known reason for oral cancer.

Some causes of oral cancer may include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
  • or chewing tobacco
  • Sun exposure to the sensitive tissues of the lips
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV).

Oral HPV infection shows no symptoms. You can have HPV without ever knowing it. You can pass on the virus because you don’t know you have it. Most people who develop oropharyngeal cancer from an HPV infection have had the infection for a long time according to the NIH.

That said, oral cancer lesions can often be asymptomatic until they are advanced, and the progression can occur rapidly. The NIH also estimates that HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States. Since it usually takes years after being infected with HPV for cancer to develop, finding evidence of abnormal cells before they become cancerous with an annual advanced oral cancer screening with VELscope is very important.

The oropharynx includes the soft palate (the back muscular part of the roof of the mouth), the side and back walls of the throat, the tonsils, and the back one-third of the tongue.

Herald Square is Your Ally in Detecting Mouth Cancer

We are serious about the early detection and treatment of oral cancer at Herald Square.

Dental Cleanings & Oral Exams

Our dentists and dental hygienists are fully trained in spotting the early signs of oral cancer and checking for these issues when cleaning your teeth. Because they spend so much time taking care of your teeth and gums, our dental hygienists are often the first to spot an abnormality, significantly improving the prognosis for our patients. When a hygienist notices anything unusual, it is immediately brought to the attention of one of our dentists, who will perform an exam.

Every patient’s oral cavity is thoroughly examined at their routine checkup. We look for any red or white patches, lumps, lesions, or abnormalities in the soft tissues. If any of these are suspicious, we may recommend a biopsy to evaluate the tissue for cancer cells.

VELscope Vx®

Detecting mouth cancer cells before they are visible to the naked eye leads to earlier removal of abnormal tissue and easier, more effective treatment of oral cancer. We also the have the VELscope Vx®, a wireless, handheld dental tool that enhances our ability to see abnormalities in the mouth that would otherwise be missed. The VELscope uses the natural fluorescence of soft tissues to illuminate potential problems. We recommend every patient undergo a VELscope Vx exam yearly, as it is the most advanced detection method available and ensures earlier treatment.

The VELscope exam is quick and painless but also, it is necessary for your health. Taking five minutes to examine the tissue with this advanced screening could save your life. It is relatively inexpensive and most insurance cover the cost or partial cost of the exam. Frequency depends on the insurance plan. This advanced oral cancer screening is strongly encouraged regardless of whether an individual has insurance coverage or not. The blue excitation lamp highlights pre-cancers, cancer and other disease processes.

Oral cancer discovered early has a 5-year survival rate of more than 85% according to the WHO (World Health Organization). Discovered late however, it is only about 40%. Early detection is the key; please schedule your annual VELscope exam now, this April!

How Can I Protect Myself from Oral Cancer?

If you use tobacco or drink alcohol to excess, stop. These are two of the most crucial steps to prevent oral cancer. Scheduling and going for an annual VELscope exam to see if there are precancerous areas is preventative as well. Know the signs of oral cancer and check your mouth monthly for any of the following symptoms:

  • An irritated area or sore spot, lump, lesion, or thickened patch in the mouth or on the lip or tongue
  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • The sensation of something stuck in your throat (feeling like you have to clear your throat frequently)
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • Swelling that interferes with denture fit
  • Numbness of the cheeks, tongue, or gums
  • Unexplained earaches

Oral cancer is insidious. It is not painful in the earliest stages and is not easy to see because it starts inside the mouth. While regularly checking your oral health is a good start, the best defense against mouth cancer are routine dental checkups, professional dental cleaning, and yearly VELscope Vx® screening.

If you have not had a routine exam or dental cleaning in the last six months, you could be putting yourself at risk for undiscovered oral cancer or precancers. It’s time to schedule an appointment at Herald Square for a complete oral cancer screening. Please contact us at Herald Square Dental Phone Number (212) 689-0024, and we will schedule a convenient time for your exam and screening.

We recommend VELscope Vx® oral cancer screening at every other prophylactic dental appointment and a visual screening at every visit.
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