April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity for dental practices like Falmouth Dental Arts to raise awareness about the importance of oral cancer detection and prevention. When treated early, oral cancer has an estimated 80-90% survival rate. As your dental care partners, we believe strongly that we are an essential part of your healthcare team. As such, we’ve had a long-standing commitment to screening our patients for early signs of oral cancer. We are excited to announce that we now have a new state-of-the-art diagnostic tool to assist us in the oral cancer screening process – a CBCT 3D x-ray machine. 3D imaging allows us to better diagnose a range of dental issues, including oral cancer. Learn more from Dr. Brunacini, as he explains some of the advantages of CBCT 3D x-rays.
1) Why has FDA upgraded to 3D x-rays?
Dr. Brunacini: 3D x-ray or CBCT (cone beam computed tomography) technology allows us to better visualize all of the structures within the head, neck, and mouth so that we can better assess our patients’ oral health.
2) How are 3-D x-rays different from the traditional digital 2D x-rays?
Dr. Brunacini: For years, dentistry has been taking and reviewing x-rays in 2-D, which can sometimes make it difficult to determine a proper diagnosis. Without the 3rd dimension, it can be difficult to see an area of concern, such as a gum or tooth infection. Being able to take 3D images allows us to more thoroughly and completely diagnose our patients prior to performing any dental treatment, especially oral surgery.
3) Will 3D x-rays replace traditional 2D x-rays?
Dr. Brunacini: 3D imaging won’t replace our typical bitewing x-rays, which are used to locate areas of decay. Rather, 3D x-rays can be used as an additional tool when trying to diagnose an area of concern or when planning for dental implants. It can also be helpful for patients with a strong gag response, as 3D x-rays allow us to get the imaging we need without placing anything into their mouth, making the process much easier and more comfortable for them.
4) How can 3D x-rays be helpful in the early detection of oral cancer?
Dr. Brunacini: CBCT technology can be used as an additional screening tool in diagnosing oral cancer. It doesn’t eliminate the need for our other screening methods, such as a visual or physical exam or VELscope screening. VELscope is a non-invasive device that emits a safe blue light to detect abnormal cell growth that could be cancerous or precancerous. If we identify any areas that look suspicious through these methods, 3D imaging can be helpful in determining subsequent steps for the ideal treatment of a lesion. As we see many of our patients twice a year, we now have a wider range of diagnostic tools available to us to screen for oral cancer during routine hygiene appointments, including CBCT x-rays.
Thank you, Dr. Brunacini!
If you have any additional questions about the oral cancer screening process, CBCT 3D x-rays, or would like to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 207.781.5900. We’re here to help!
Did you know that your routine dental check-up could save your life? Dentists are on the front lines of a growing health concern: oral cancer. Oral cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade the oral cavity (mouth) and the oropharynx (part of the throat at the back of the mouth). According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 53,000 people will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019; that means 145 people each day. Prevention and early detection is one of the most effective strategies for treating oral cancer, as when it is caught early there is an 80-90% survival rate. Oral cancer screenings are an important part of our regular dental exams and something we want to help create more awareness about for our patients. To learn more about this critical health topic and the resources we have at FDA, we talked with Dr. Brunacini.
1. Why is oral cancer screening an important part of care at FDA?
Dr. Brunacini: As dentists, we are part of your health care team. A lot of what is seen in the mouth can be an indicator of overall health and a lot of patients see their dentist more frequently than their physician. That makes an oral cancer screening at the dentist extremely important for early detection of any changes in the mouth which can be the key to easier treatment options for oral cancer, as well as a rapid recovery, and a prolonged life.
2. What happens during an oral cancer screening?
Dr. Brunacini: A lot of the oral cancer screening is simply examining the soft tissues with our eyes. We examine the gum tissue, lips, cheeks, and tongue. We also palpate areas of the face and neck to check for any nodules or lumps. If there is an area of concern, we also offer to do a VELscope screening. VELscope is a non-invasive oral cancer screening device that emits a safe blue light that provides earlier detection of abnormal cell growth that could be cancerous or precancerous.
3. What are some risk factors for oral cancer?
Dr. Brunacini: The most common risk factors include tobacco, alcohol, and sun exposure. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco account for most cases of oral cancer and lip cancer is often caused by excessive sun exposure.
Also, another risk factor, although less known, is HPV (Human Papillomavirus). It is a very common virus that most of us get exposed to throughout our childhood. There is now a vaccine that can be given, which could help decrease the risk for oral cancer.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about these risk factors and your health.
4. Are there any warning signs or symptoms for oral cancer?
Dr. Brunacini: Yes, patients should be aware of any white patches or areas that bleed more easily, as these can sometimes be a sign of oral cancer. If there is a noticeable and recent change in your mouth, such as tenderness or a change in the way your teeth fit together, it is always a good idea to let us know. We will assess and address the issue and make sure that you are equipped with the information you need to make the best decisions for your well-being.
5. If you find something during a screening, what are the next steps?
Dr. Brunacini: Generally, if there is an area of concern, the next step will be a referral to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon will perform a biopsy of the area to determine the diagnosis. A lot of times, the biopsy determines that the area is not of concern. However, when the biopsy is positive for cancerous cells, then further treatment may be indicated. Throughout this process, we are here to support our patients with the follow up care they need.
Thank you, Dr. Brunacini!
We strive to be your dental care partner for a healthy life and always want to make sure you have information about how we can help you achieve that. If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health or would like to schedule an appointment with an oral cancer screening, please call us at 207.781.5900.
Teeth and health change over time. Different stages of life have very different and specific issues that may arise. With the help of the ADA, we have comprised a list of 5 concerns that a mature mouth might encounter.
1.) Gum disease. We know you’ve heard this one before, but the older you get the greater risk you are at. Brushing and flossing (the right way like we outlined in our 8 Common Brushing Mistakes article) combined with regular dental visits and periodontal exams is the winning combo to keep you healthy. Gingivitis is bad enough, but it is the reversible stage of gum disease. If your gum disease reaches periodontitis, it is irreversible.
2.) Missing teeth. Did you know that the average adult between the ages of 20-60 has three or more decayed or missing teeth? You may not think this is a big deal, but missing teeth can affect the way you eat and speak. Additionally, the missing tooth leaves an open space in your mouth that may cause your other teeth to move around or shift, and the vacancy in your mouth can also cause bone loss in that area where the tooth is missing. There are a handful of different solutions to solve this problem. Three of the most common are bridges, dentures, and implants. Call or visit us to discuss your options and together we can decide which option is best for you.
3.) Sensitivity. If you are experiencing discomfort when consuming hot and/or cold foods and beverages, then you may have sensitive teeth. This hyper-sensitivity could be caused by a number of things including tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel, and/or an exposed tooth root. The good news is that sensitive teeth can be treated. Treatment may be as simple as desensitizing toothpaste, or maybe a more intense treatment is necessary for more extreme cases – treatment oftentimes depends on the cause of the sensitivity.
4.) Dry mouth. Dry mouth can be experienced by anyone, but if your mouth is constantly dry, then it may be time to seek treatment with us. Many things can cause dry mouth – medications, certain health conditions, and alcohol are a few of the more common causes. If you have constant dry mouth, it is important to get it checked because the reduced flow of saliva creates an environment where bacteria can thrive and decay becomes a real problem. Dry mouth itself is not a serious health problem, but making sure you take extra special care of your oral hygiene when/if you experience dry mouth is extremely important to maintaining a healthy mouth.
5.) Oropharyngeal Cancer. This can affect any area of the mouth – lips, gums, cheek lining, tongue, jaw, hard or soft palate, and throat. It can start as an unsuspecting white spot or inflamed area, so make sure to take it seriously if you notice something like this in your mouth. We regularly screen for oral cancers at your check ups because, as with all cancers, early detection is key to rapid recovery, prolonged health, and easier treatment options. Symptoms and warning signs of oral cancer may be, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
- A thick/hard spot or a lump
- A roughened or crusted area
- Numbness, pain, or tenderness
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, and/or moving your tongue and jaw
We hope this information is helpful. Don’t neglect your oral health. It is extremely important to stay on top of these concerns so they do not progress as you age and become more difficult to deal with and correct. We are here to help! If you have any questions or concerns call us just to talk, or schedule an appointment.
Click here to take a 5 question (true or false style) quiz about your oral health. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-40-60/fact-or-fiction/
Are you a daily mouthwash user? Are you using mouthwash more than once a day? If so, you may be interested to know that a recent study suggests that the frequent usage of alcohol-based mouthwashes can be bad for your health. In fact, there may be a “link between excessive mouthwash rinsing and people who use it to mask the small of smoking and alcohol,” both of which are independent risk factors for oral cancer.
The study, which was undertaken in order to isolate risk factors for oral cancers affecting the mouth, esophagus, larynx, and gullet, was not entirely conclusive in its findings, according to Professor Damien Walmsley, who is an adviser to the British Dental Association. However, he also stated that the study does “reaffirm that smoking together with heavy drinking and a poor diet over time are strong risk factors for developing cancers of the oral cavity and esophagus.”
Though the results of such studies have yet to produce a strong enough association between oral cancer and alcohol-based mouthwashes to be considered conclusive, we at FDA prefer to err on the side of caution. We provide a mouth rinse in our office that is alcohol-free, called Closys, and we’re also in the process of adding a new, all-herbal rinse as well.
In observation of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to provide you with some information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer and the links between the two.
There are more than 40 types of HPV that can affect the mouth and throat areas, most of which congregate near the base of the tongue and tonsil area, known as the “oropharynx.” HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, but only HPV type 16 has been found in oropharyngeal cancer.
The human body typically fights off the HPV infection naturally, but the infection has the potential to turn regular cells in infected skin into irregular cells—sometimes irreversibly so. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, “about 7% of people have oral HPV,” and of that number, “only 1% of people have the type of oral HPV that is found in oropharyngeal cancers.”