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Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth and throat (larynx). Cancer is defined as the disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. This abnormal collection of mutated cells can form a tumor. Oral cancer originates in the mouth and throat, but has the ability to spread to other parts of the body.

The Mayo Clinic states, “mouth cancers most commonly begin in the flat, thin cells (squamous cells) that line your lips and the inside of your mouth. Most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.”

Types Of Oral Cancer

-Squamous cell carcinoma: More than 90% of cancers that occur in the oral cavity and oropharynx are of the squamous cell carcinoma type. Normally, the throat and mouth are lined with squamous cells, which are flat and arranged in a scale-like way. Squamous cell carcinoma means that some squamous cells are abnormal.

-Verrucous carcinoma: About 5% of all oral cavity tumors are verrucous carcinoma, which is a type of very slow-growing cancer made up of squamous cells. This type of oral cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but can invade the tissue surrounding the site of origin.

-Minor salivary gland carcinomas: This category includes several kinds of oral cancer that can develop on the minor salivary glands, which are found throughout the lining of the mouth and throat. These types include adenoid cystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, and polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma.

-Lymphomas: Oral cancers that develop in lymph tissue, which is part of the immune system, are known as lymphomas. The tonsils and base of the tongue both contain lymphoid tissue. See our pages on Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma for cancer information related to lymphomas in the oral cavity.

-Benign oral cavity and oropharyngeal tumors: Several types of non-cancerous tumors and tumor-like conditions can arise in the oral cavity and throat. Sometimes, these non cancerous conditions may develop into oral cancer. For this reason, benign tumors, which usually do not recur, are often removed surgically.

-Leukoplakia and erythroplakia: With leukoplakia, a white area can be seen, and with erythroplakia, there is a red area, flat or slightly raised, that often bleeds when scraped. Both conditions may be precancerous; that is, they can develop into different types of cancer. When these conditions occur, a biopsy or other test is done to determine whether the cells are cancerous. About 25% of cases of leukoplakia are either cancerous when first discovered or become precancerous. Erythroplakia is usually more serious, with about 70% of cases cancerous either at the time of diagnosis or later.

What Causes Oral Cancer

Doctors and researchers are not entirely sure exactly what causes oral cancer, but they have found links that put some people more at risk.

-HPV (human papilloma virus): Contact with HPV 16 (a sexually transmitted disease) has been linked to certain oral cancers.

-Age: Oral cancer risk increases with age; and is predominantly seen in people over the age of 40.

-Tobacco: The majority of cancer cases are associated with tobacco use, specifically cigarette smoking.

-Alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of oral cancer and those risks are even greater when use of alcohol and smoking cigarettes are combined.

-Diet: A diet that lacks proper nutrition such as vegetables and fruits can increase the risk of oral cancer (as well as all types of cancer).

-Exposure To Sun: Lip cancer can been caused by exposure to the sun.

Classic Oral Cancer Symptoms

-Persistent sore throat that does not go away.

-Loose teeth.

-Difficulty swallowing.

-Difficulty chewing.

-Lump in lining of mouth.

-White or reddish patch inside mouth or on the lips.

-Jaw pain.

-Tongue pain or numbness.

-A feeling that something is caught in your throat (even when nothing is there).

Oral Cancer Screening By Your Dentist

Your dentist should routinely screen for oral cancer during dental examinations at least twice a year. A thorough manual and visual examination should be performed. Your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity, and thoroughly examines the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any changes such as sores or discolored tissues. The use of the Velscope oral cancer screening system has been proven to diagnose precancerous as well as cancerous changes in the tissue as early as possible to give you the best chance for recovery and long term survival from oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Treatment

If during your dental examination, your dentist finds anything out of the ordinary or suspicious they will recommend that you have a biopsy performed of that area. The biopsy of the lesion will be used to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. If it is confirmed that you do indeed have oral cancer you will probably be referred to an oral surgeon for removal of the tumors. Radiation or chemotherapy may be also used in the course of your oral cancer treatment.

Oral Cancer Conclusion

If you have any concerns about your oral health or have any of the warning signs listed above, see your dentist immediately. As in any disease, an early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference in long term survival. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated. So be vigilant and, even if you do not have any warning signs, visit your dentist for routine oral cancer screenings.

Maintaining our oral health can be challenging at times. We all live busy schedules but research has shown that good oral health can lead to good overall health. Below are some tips to help embrace your oral health today!

Top Oral Health Tips

-Brush at least twice a day and floss daily before bedtime. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are major issues as we get older. Almost 75% of all teenagers have gums that bleed. This is one of the first signs of the development of periodontal disease. In its earliest form (gingivitis), the damage is reversible so it is best to catch it early. Other brushing tips include:

-Change your toothbrush at least every 6 months.

-Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth.

-Older people with arthritis or other problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. Some people find it easier to use an electric toothbrush.

-Become A Gum Chewer. Chewing sugar free gum (or gum with xylitol) after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralizes acid.

-Do Not Smoke (Or Use Smokeless Tobacco). Not only will using tobacco products stain your teeth but their use will significantly increase the risk of periodontal disease and oral cancer.

-Eat A Well Balanced Diet. No matter your age, a healthy, well balanced diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. A well-balanced diet of whole foods (this includes whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and cheeses) will provide all the nutrients you need. Research has also shown consuming more fish (omega-3 fats) may actually reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease. It is believed the omega-3 fats will lower inlfammation in the body including the gum tissues.

-Avoid Sugary Foods. When bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars, they produce acids that can erode your tooth’s enamel, opening the door to tooth decay. Sugary drinks, including colas and fruit drinks, pose a special threat because people tend to sip them, raising acid levels over a long period of time. Sticky candies (like gummy bears and fruit roll ups) are another culprit, because they linger on teeth surfaces.

-Play Smart. Sports help maintain our body and mind health, but they can pose a major threat to teeth. Most school teams now require children to wear mouth guards. But remember: unsupervised recreational activities like skateboarding and roller blading can also result in injuries. An over the counter mouthguard can help soften the blow from theses traumatic injuries. A custom made sports mouthguard made by your dentist can be even more effective as research has shown a well fitted mouthguard can actually help reduce incidence of concussions.

-Maintain A Regular Appointment Schedule. It is recommended to have a dental examination every 6 months — more often if you have problems like periodontal disease. During a routine exam, your dentist or dental hygienist will:

-Check For Tooth Decay.

-Remove plaque and tartar that cannot be brushed or flossed away.

-Check For Early Signs Of Oral Cancer. Most cases of oral cancer can be treated if found early enough. Undetected, oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body and become harder to treat. Once oral cancer progresses it becomes very very difficult to effectively treat.

-Wear and tear from tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Teeth grinding may be caused by stress or anxiety. Over time, it can wear down the biting surfaces of teeth, making them more susceptible to tooth decay. If your teeth show signs of bruxism, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard worn at night to prevent grinding.

-Signs of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease (also called gingivitis or periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss. Unfortunately, by the time most people notice any of the warning signs of periodontitis, it’s too late to reverse the damage.

-Interactions with medications. Older patients, especially those on multiple medications, are at risk of dry mouth, or xerostomia. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of tooth decay and gum problems. As many as 800 different drugs cause dry mouth as a side effect. Always tell your dentist about any medications you take. A change in prescriptions may help lessen the problem. Saliva like oral mouthwashes are also available.

-Get Children Started Early. 1 in 4 young children develops signs of tooth decay before they start school. Half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have tooth decay. Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears, usually around six months.

Oral Health Conclusion

Maintaining good oral health should become a habit from an early age. The earlier we get into the routine the easier it will be to stay healthy throughout our lives.

The new year is fast approaching and it may be time to start thinking about what your New Year’s resolutions should be. These usually include losing weight, striving for a better job, or maybe even just being  a better friend or partner. Many people also set new goals for leading a healthier life going forward. So why not make some New Year’s resolutions regarding your dental health?

Making dental health resolutions can keep your teeth healthy, and studies have shown it can keep your entire body healthy as well.

Dental Health New Year’s Resolutions

Eat A Well Balanced Diet including Fruits and Vegetables

Eating a well balanced diet is important for yourdental health. If your body is not getting its propernutrition it can affect your entire immune system. Poor nutrition, increases susceptibility to many common oral disorders, including periodontal disease and tooth decay. Antioxidants and other nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts improve your body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation. Healthy eating helps to protect your teeth and gum tissues. In addition, crisp fruits and raw vegetables like apples, carrots and celery can actually help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath as well.

Quit Smoking or Using Other Tobacco Products

Using tobacco has been proven to be bad for your dental health as well as your general health. Some of the dental issues associated with smoking include:

-Tooth Discoloration.

-Tooth Decay.

-Gingival Recession.

-Periodontal Disease.

-Increased risk for cancer. This includes oral cancer as well throat, lung, and other systemic cancers.
People who smoke are almost twice as likely to lose their teeth as non smokers. It is not just smoking tobacco that has negative effects on your oral health: use of smokeless tobacco can be just as damaging to your dental health. The good news is, that the risk of tooth loss decreases after you quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco.

Use Alcohol in Moderation

You may already know that excessive alcohol intake can have an effect on your overall health, but did you know that it may also affect your dental health? According to the Academy of General Dentistry, those who use tobacco products, are more likely to maintain poor nutrition. Drinking excessive alcohol also  increases gum recession (periodontal pocketing). Studies show that smokers who regularly drink alcohol are less likely to brush and floss their teeth regularly and are less concerned about their basic health than non smokers.

Improve Dental Hygiene: Brush and Floss Regularly

Brushing and flossing protect your teeth from tooth decay and periodontal disease. These are caused by your teeth’s most persistent enemy, plaque. Both brushing and flossing are equally important for good oral health. Studies have shown that only flossing can remove plaque from between teeth and below the gum line,areas  where tooth decay and periodontal disease begins.

Without proper brushing and flossing, you may develop bleeding gums and gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest form of periodontal disease and is reversible. If untreated it will worsen to severely swollen, red, bleeding gums and, eventually, advanced periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has been linked to your general health, therefore, it is doubly important to maintain good dental health at all times.

See Your Dentist for Regular Examinations and Cleanings

By seeing your dentist at least twice a year for dental examinations and cleanings, you can help prevent any dental health issues before they cause pain or require more comprehensive or expensive treatment. Regular visits allow your dentist to keep track of your oral health and recommend an individualized dental hygiene maintenance regimen to address areas of concern.

Happy New Year!!

For the new year and for years to come you should resolve to improve your health, dental hygiene habits, quit smoking, drink in moderation, and improve your overall diet. Your teeth and body, and loved ones will thank you for it for many years to come!  Bring in the new year with a smile!

For most of us the mere mention of cancer is frightening. However, with today’s medical advancements many types of cancer of very treatable and curable. Unfortunately, oral cancer is not one of those types of cancer. In fact oral cancer kills one person per hour every day of the year in the United States alone. Another issue with oral cancer is it is often not detected until the later stages when it is most deadly.

What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer includes any cancer that begins and develops in your mouth. This can mean the throat, cheeks, tongue, hard and soft palates, floor of the mouth, or lips. Oral cancer usually begins as a sore in the mouth that does not heal. Unfortunately, many assume it is just a canker sore or a pizza burn and ignore it. This usually leads to a much later detection of the disease. The majority of oral cancer is classified as squamous cell carcinoma, which attacks epithelial cells.

Males are most at risk of developing oral cancer. They run 2x the risk as females do of developing oral cancer. That may be because many of the top causes of oral cancer, such as smoking, are more widely practiced by men than women. As for age, people who are middle-aged and older are most likely to develop the disease.

Oral cancer kills more than 8,000 people every year in the United States. Some 43,000 are newly diagnosed each year, but many others go into remission only to have the cancer come back a few years later. The oral cancer survival rate is 57 percent, and this has actually improved over the past decade (used to be 50% survival rate) as people become more vigilant about getting screened.

A disturbing trend is that an increasing number of oral cancer cases are being caused by HPV16 (a type of Human Papilloma Virus) that effects the mucus membranes and skin. It tends to affect the back of the mouth, including the oropharynx, the tonsils, and the base of the tongue.Unfortunately, since these types of cancer are in the back of the mouth, the color changes and lesions that often signal the presence of oral cancer can be more easily overlooked by patients. They may not know that their mouth has undergone any chance and not seek professional care.

Oral cancer has a high risk of recurring for the first 10 years after diagnosis. Patients are up to 20 times as likely to get cancer again as those who have not been diagnosed with oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

There are many risk factors and these can include:

-Smoking (Tobacco use).

-Excessive Drinking Of Alcohol.

-Smog.

-Herpes Infections.

-Age.

-Periodontal Disease.

-Poor Nutrition.

Oral Cancer Signs And Symptoms

The most commons signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

-Oral sores lasting for 2 weeks or more without healing.

-Facia or oral numbness.

-Unexplained facial or oral pain.

-Unexplained lingering sore throat.

-Changes in your voice (increased hoarseness).

-Ear pain.

-Unexplained weight loss.

-Frequent oral bleeding with no apparent cause.

-White or red patches in the mouth.

-Crusty lesions inside or outside the mouth.

Oral Cancer Screening By Your Dentist

Your dentist should screen for oral cancer during routine dental examinations at least twice a year. A manual and visual examination is necessary. He or she feels for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity, and thoroughly examines the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. The use of the Velscope oral cancer screening system has been proven to diagnose precancerous as well as cancerous changes in the tissue as early as possible to give you the best chance for recovery and survival from oral cancer.

Treatment of Oral Cancer

If during your dental examination your dentist finds anything suspicious they will recommend that you have a biopsy performed of that area. The biopsy of the lesion will be used to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. If it is confirmed that you do indeed have oral cancer you will probably be referred to an oral surgeon for removal of the tumors. Radiation or chemotherapy may be also used in the course of your treatment.

Oral Cancer Conclusion

If you have any concerns about your oral health or have any of the warning signs listed above, see your dentist immediately. As in any disease, an early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated. So be vigilant and, even if you do not have any warning signs, visit your dentist for routine oral cancer screenings.