Oral Cancer: What You Need to Know

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Oral cancer occurs in 11.6 per 100,000 people, and resulted in 177,000 deaths globally in 2018. While not among the most common or deadly varieties of cancer, it still poses a serious risk for certain people.

Cancer is always a scary diagnosis, but it can be significantly less scary when caught in its early stages. While early screening is not always an exact science, oral cancer screening can be conveniently integrated into your dental visit, saving you time and providing valuable peace of mind.

Klooster Family Dentistry is proud to offer the Identafi Oral Cancer Exam to our patients. We hope to answer some common questions – risks, likelihood, and the procedure itself – in our article today.

Oral Cancer: Unique Features and Identification

Oral cancer is an umbrella term for cancerous growth anywhere in the mouth, including the gums, tongue, sinuses, lips, and the roof of the mouth. The most obvious sign is a thin, irregular series of white patches in the mouth. These patches may also be red in color, rough in texture, and mildly painful.

Other signs can include:

  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Persistent, unexplained earache
  • Numbness in the lips or chin
  • Swelling
  • Loose teeth

Because of proximity to the throat and lymph nodes, oral cancer metastasis is a serious risk.

Risk Factors

Tobacco use is by far the most significant contributor to oral cancer, responsible for around 40% of cases. While alcohol does pose a slight risk, its synergistic reaction with tobacco makes it particularly dangerous when used in combination.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, also contributes to oral cancer risk. Also responsible for cervical cancer, HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease. Research does show that HPV-caused cancers respond better to radiation than those caused by tobacco.

Identafi Oral Cancer Exam

While the aforementioned features of oral cancer can be detected during a routine dental exam, Identafi goes a step further. Using multi-spectral lights and special glasses, the procedure detects cancer at a cellular level. The exam is short and painless: your dentist simply looks into your mouth using the tools. While it is often covered by insurance, the screening itself is only $35 if you’re uninsured.

Identafi is typically used in combination with a physical exam; because biopsies can be invasive and inconvenient, it allows your dentist to be more confident when recommending one.

If you’re at risk for oral cancer or just need some peace of mind, Klooster Family Dentistry can help! We offer the Identafi Oral Cancer exam to all of our patients in Holly Springs and Raleigh. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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