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El Portal Dental Blog


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Treatments for Oral Cancer
Treatments for Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer that begins in the mouth or the throat. The American Cancer Society reports that more than 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cavity cancer or oropharyngeal cancer every year, and almost 11,000 will die of the disease. 

However, there is a silver lining – oral cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. It is also among the most treatable of cancers, especially if found early. Your dentist is key in the prevention and early detection of mouth cancer. 

Your dentist checks for signs of oral cancer during every regular checkup, which is just one of the many important reasons why regular visits to your dentist are recommended. If you have a family history of oral cancer or if you smoke, you are considered a high-risk patient and will do well to see your dentist regularly. 

If you are diagnosed with mouth cancer, there are effective treatments for the disease. Let’s talk about some of the early signs and the treatments that are available for oral cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer? 

Oral cancer symptoms include: 

  • Mouth sores
  • Lumps in or around the mouth
  • Red and white patches in the mouth and throat
  • Oral pain or bleeding
  • A feeling of something stuck in the throat
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Pain in your ear
  • Trouble chewing
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Lump or swelling in your neck
  • Change in your voice
  • Unexplained weight loss

Any of these typical symptoms of oral cancer may actually be due to other health conditions, which is why having them examined by an experienced dentist is important for an accurate diagnosis. A diagnosis is the first step of treatment for oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Treatment Methods

Treating oral cancer requires a multidisciplinary approach. This involves the participation of your dentist along with other specialists, such as otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), dental surgeons, and oncologists (cancer doctors).

The treatment plan will depend on the type and stage of the cancer. It will likely either involve a combination of surgery and radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, or minimally invasive treatments.

If the cancer is localized in one spot (rather than systemic, which means it has spread to other parts of the body), the medical team will work to destroy the cancer cells and prevent the spread to other areas. If the cancer is advanced and has spread (metastasized) to other areas, surgery and chemotherapy is often the recommended treatment.

The goal of oral cancer treatment is to control the cancer and to relieve its symptoms. Discuss any concerns you may have, such as side effects associated with your cancer treatment, with your medical specialist. It’s important to understand how each treatment method works and how your body might respond.

Preventing Oral Cancer in Merced, CA 

Early detection of oral cancer can save your life, which is why the dental team here at El Portal Dental Group recommends regular dental visits and checkups to our patients. We care about your oral health and how it impacts your overall health.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, contact our staff today by calling us at (209) 385-1479 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to seeing you here!

The Oral Cancer Foundation Announces the "Check Your Mouth" Campaign
The Oral Cancer Foundation Announces the

Most Americans have never heard of oral cancer, let alone how deadly it is. Oral cancer kills one person in the United States every hour of every day, all year round. In 2018, there will be approximately 50,000 Americans diagnosed with this form of cancer, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Oral and oropharyngeal cancers affect the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate, and the walls of the throat. Although relatively rare, these cancers have a very high mortality rate due to the fact that many cases are discovered at a late stage of the disease. The lack of awareness among the general public has made it a silent threat. And its prevalence seems to be on the rise. 

The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) has launched a nationwide public service campaign aimed at the early discovery of oral cancer. Their "Check Your Mouth™" effort is based on an interactive website designed to familiarize individuals with the disease, empowering them to find its early signs and symptoms through self-examination. Timely discovery of oral cancer, as with most cancer, may lead to less invasive treatments, and better outcomes and survival. 

Tobacco and alcohol

You may already know that tobacco use increases risk of oral cancers. High alcohol consumption can also put you at risk for oral cancer. Tobacco use of any form is a blatantly obvious oral health hazard, directly contributing to an increased risk of oral cancer.

HPV and oral cancers

According to the OCF site, the increase in oral cancer diagnoses may be the result of infection by a certain variant of the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV virus is common; The Centers for Disease Control states that 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes. For most people, the immune system clears the virus from their body, doing no harm whatsoever.

For a small number of Americans, however, the immune system can’t clear the virus, which can stay dormant for several years. Decades later, the infection may resurface and progress into cancer. 

Public awareness 

The "Check Your Mouth" site was designed to help people avoid the disease when possible, and teach them how to recognize its early signs and symptoms, and when to seek the advice of a dentist or other healthcare professional. 

The Self-discovery video at the site provides step-by-step directions on how to perform your own visual and tactile examination. This “Check Your Mouth™” exam actually starts outside of your mouth by looking at yourself in the mirror. The first step begins with checking your neck and lymph nodes and proceeding to checking the inside of your cheeks, your lips, gum tissues and tongue. It then moves to the floor and roof of your mouth and ends with the back of your mouth and tonsils.

The main objective of this OCF campaign is to reduce the incidence of difficult to treat, late stage oral cancer. The best outcomes, like most forms of cancer, occur with the earliest possible diagnosis. In the case of oral cancer, either a timely self-examination or regularly scheduled dental exams are vital for finding any signs of cancer.

Remember that you can perform self-examination, but only a dentist or healthcare professional can determine the presence of the disease. You can take the first step to beating oral cancer by visiting the “Check Your Mouth™” website.  

If you would like more information about oral cancer screening and prevention, or have any other dental concerns, please call El Portal Dental at (209) 385-1479 today, or schedule an appointment online. We are here to meet all of your dental needs.

Great American Smokeout Day is Coming – Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
Great American Smokeout Day is Coming – Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?

November 17, 2016 - this is THE DAY. It will be a big day for smokers across the nation this year, as it is designated as the date that hundreds of smokers will make the decision to quit. Will you be one of them? The American Cancer Society has deemed it National Smokeout Day, a day for your community to come together and support one another in making the difficult decision to stop harming their bodies with tobacco once and for all.

El Portal Dental Group respects those who are strong enough to commit to the cause, because they show respect for their bodies and overall health by doing so. The moment that you stop smoking, it’s only a matter of time before your overall health improves, including your mouth, teeth, and gums.

Smoking tobacco, no matter the delivery system (cigarette, cigar, hookah, or chewing tobacco), puts you at high risk of developing gum (periodontal) disease, the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.  When plaque, a sticky film created by a mixture of naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth as well as sugary or starchy foods, hardens onto the teeth it becomes what is known as tartar. 

Tartar bonds bad bacteria to your teeth, making it very difficult to get rid of plaque. While bacteria are held fast to your teeth, they burrow down into your gums, slowly digging and effectively loosening the tooth from the gums. This ultimately results in decay and many other dental health issues.

When you smoke, you allow less oxygen into the bloodstream, which unfortunately means that your body cannot repair or protect itself from oral health concerns as effectively as it normally could. Yet just 1 to 3 months after quitting tobacco, your body’s circulation improves significantly.

Dangers of Oral Cancer From Tobacco

Oral cancer can affect your lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Your risk for oral cancer increases significantly with regular use of tobacco, and it takes 5 years after quitting for that risk to lessen even just halfway.

Some of the early telling signs of oral cancer include: 

  • A red or white patch or irritation on the gums, the tongue, or the lining of the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding in the mouth
  • Swelling of the jaw

Oral cancer kills thousands every year and can only be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. The earlier it is caught, the better your chances are of recovery. However, it can be very difficult to catch in its early stages if you do not regularly visit your dentist, because early oral cancer isn’t always painful and therefore may not be noticed.

When you make the decision to smoke, you must also be prepared to take extra precautions to ensure relative healthiness. It’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis – at least twice every year – so that we can perform a thorough inspection of your mouth to keep an eye out for any early signs of diseases or cancer. Smoking can also cause undesirable cosmetic issues, like bad breath and yellow or brown stained teeth.

For a thorough cleaning and comprehensive oral cancer exam, call us today at (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment online. Our Merced dental experts can help further educate you about the dangers of smoking and support you in your quitting journey.

Do you plan on quitting on National Smokeout Day? Do you need support? Let us know and we’ll be happy to help guide you to the proper resources you need to quit smoking successfully.

Why You Need an Oral Cancer Screening
Why You Need an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is one of the lesser-known types of cancer, yet it is one of the most deadly types. Oral cancer is classified with head and neck cancers, but comprises 85% of all head and neck cancer occurrences. Twenty percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer this year will die within their first year of diagnosis. Within five years, oral cancer will have claimed the lives of almost fifty percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Oral cancer is so deadly because it’s very difficult to diagnose in the early stages. No pain or other symptoms are present in very early stages, so it’s typically only caught after it has developed into a more severe stage. For this reason, it is especially important to have an oral cancer screening as part of your regular dental care visit.

Why You Need to Have an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer screenings are an important part of your regular 6-month dental checkup. Here’s why:

  • Dental exams are the best opportunity for early detection. Oral cancer typically starts with abnormal tissue in the mouth, and dental professionals can detect an abnormality far sooner than the patient can. By the time the patient experiences any symptoms, the cancer may have already spread or progressed to a dangerous level. Watching for early signs of oral cancer is the best way to save more lives.

  • The affected area may be difficult or impossible for you to see. Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth, including your lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, roof of your mouth, and upper part of your throat. It’s nearly impossible for you to inspect all the surfaces of your mouth adequately for abnormalities.

  • A proper oral screening is both visual and tactile. We will feel areas of your cheeks, jaw, and neck to check for anything unusual. Our professional knowledge and training allows our dentists to identify any areas that don’t feel normal.

  • We use diagnostic tools to investigate anything abnormal to try to catch oral cancer as soon as possible. Specialized lights, mouth rinses, and ultrasound-guiding imaging can help provide a better picture of anything suspicious.

  • Oral cancer screenings are fast, painless, and don’t cost anything extra. Follow-up procedures for abnormalities may cost extra, but the actual screening is included in your standard exam.

If your dentist does not automatically perform an oral cancer screening, ask for one! If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a dentist, or you’re not sure if your dentist did perform an oral cancer screening at your last appointment, come see one of our oral cancer and dental experts at El Portal Dental. Our knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate staff will perform an oral cancer screening to put you back in control of your health. Call our Merced office at (209) 385-1479, or request an appointment online today.