Waterford, MI Dentist
Lloyd H. Alpert, D.D.S.
4025 Highland Road
Waterford, MI 48328
(248) 682-6010

Posts for tag: Oral Cancer

How Your Dental Visit Can Prevent or Detect Cancer

You may not think of your routine dental visit as a cancer screening test, but, in part, it is. Dentists and dental hygienists examine your mouth, tongue and surrounding tissue much more closely than you do and are most often the people who find pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions in early stages of growth.

A thorough oral cancer screening exam includes more than looking around your mouth. Your dentist will examine and feel your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue, thyroid gland, salivary glands and lymph nodes for any abnormalities. If you have dentures or partials, they should be taken out to allow the entire mouth to be inspected.

People who smoke, use smokeless tobacco and drink alcohol are at higher risk of developing oral cancers. However, in recent years, oral cancers in younger people without these risk factors are on the rise. This is due to the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that is known to cause cancers of the oral cavity, cervix, anus, penis, vagina and vulva. (Learn more about HPV and oral cancers.) In addition, other cases occur in people with no risk factors at all, so screening is important for everyone.

Some dentists offer additional testing to detect pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions such as special lights. These are typically not covered by insurance and can cost 40-100$ out of pocket. The Journal of the American Dental Association published a review of these techniques, which found that there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of visually based adjunctive techniques. The study noted the importance of a thorough oral exam as the best method to detect oral lesions.

In addition to routine dental screenings, you should be aware of the potential signs of oral cancers and report these to your healthcare provider. Remember that many of these can be caused by non-cancerous (benign) conditions, but still warrant a trip to your healthcare provider for further investigation.

Signs to report:

•A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal

•A color change of the oral tissues

•A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area

•Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips

•Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN

 Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania

October 29, 2014
Category: Dental News
Tags: Oral Cancer  

More than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or
pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing
roughly one person every hour, every day. Of those 34,000 newly
diagnosed individuals, only half will be alive in 5 years.
The two most common pathways by which most people develop oral
cancer is through tobacco and alcohol use and through exposure to
the human papilloma virus (HPV) – the same virus responsible for the
majority of cervical cancers in women.
Oral cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or
sore somewhere in the mouth and often goes unnoticed until it has
metastasized (spread) into another part of the body. It can affect any
area of the mouth including the lips, gums, cheek lining, tongue, and
the hard or soft palate. When found early, oral cancers have an
80 to 90 % survival rate. Dental professionals can act as a first line
of defense in the early detection of oral cancer. Your CDA member
dentist includes oral cancer screening as part of a routine oral exam. 

October 02, 2013
Category: Dental News
Tags: Oral Cancer  

The ADA provides you with valuable information regarding oral cancer.


Did you know almost 41,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year? And that the 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64 percent? When cancer is detected and treated early, treatment-related health problems are reduced.

The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.

During your dental visit, your dentist can talk to you about your health history and examine these areas for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. The screening will consist of a visual inspection of the mouth and palpation of the jaw and neck. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily. In between visits, it's important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms and to see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.

The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:

  • a sore or irritation that doesn't go away
  • red or white patches
  • pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • a lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Research has identified a number of factors that contribute to the development of mouth and throat cancers. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers older than 50 are the most at risk. More recently, the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, has been associated with cancers of the oropharyngeal region that is the part of the throat at the back of the mouth. HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are related to the increasing incidence of throat cancers in non-smoking adults.

HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers typically develop in the throat at the base of the tongue and near or on the tonsils making them difficult to detect. Although HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage, people with HPV-positive cancers have a lower risk of dying or having recurrence than those with HPV-negative cancers. It is likely that there is a complex interaction of many external and internal factors that play a role in the development of HPV-positive cancers.


Keeping your mouth healthy during treatment:

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the first thing you should do before beginning cancer treatment is to see your dentist. After your treatment begins, be sure to check your mouth every day for sores or other changes.

Other NIDCR tips to keep your mouth moist:

  • Keep your mouth moist.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Suck ice chips.
  • Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy.
  • Use a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth.

Tips for cleaning your mouth:

  • Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime. If it hurts, soften the bristles in warm water.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use the special fluoride gel that your dentist prescribes.
  • Don't use mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
  • Floss your teeth gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in one quart of warm water. Follow with a plain water rinse.
  • Dentures that don't fit well can cause problems. Talk to your cancer doctor or dentist about your dentures.


Every hour of every day, in the United States, one American dies of oral cancer. This deadly disease is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths with no significant improvement in the survival rate in the past 40 years; in fact, while the American Cancer Society recently reported that overall cancer deaths and incidence have decreased, the oral cancer death rate increased by 5.5% and the incidence increased by 1.5%. More than 50 percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years.

If discovered in its early stages, oral cancer is 90 percent curable, but less than 50 percent curable if discovered in its later stages. To help achieve early detection, we offer patients the benefits of ViziLite Plus TM with TBlue630 Oral Lesion Identification and Marking System, a technology cleared by the FDA for identifying oral abnormalities in patients at increased risk for oral cancer. ViziLite Plus, marketed by Zila Pharmaceuticals is a medical breakthrough that helps professionals detect oral abnormalities that could be early indicators of cancer.

ViziLite Plus was developed to improve the traditional method of detecting oral abnormalities. Once pre-cancer or cancer can be seen or felt by a healthcare practitioner, it has possibly already advanced to the late stages where it is considerably less curable. In fact, 70% of oral cancer lesions detected with the traditional exam are detected late, in stage III and IV when the five-year survival rate is 57%.

ViziLite Plus is an easy, painless and non-invasive examination. The exam is a three-step process and takes only a few minutes. First, the patient rinses with a raspberry-vinegar flavored solution to prepare for the exam after which the dentist snaps the ViziLite Plus lightstick, activating it so that it glows. The dentist then places the lightstick in a retractor and shines it in the patient's mouth while examining the oral tissue for abnormalities. Abnormal tissue will glow a blue-white color. Once the dentist has ruled out trauma as a cause, the TBlue630 Oral Lesion Marking System, a bluish dye, will be applied to the lesion to help the dentist visualize the precise extent of the lesion.

Oral cancer is more prevalent than cervical cancer; it's common practice for women to get a mammogram and Pap smear every year. ViziLite Plus is a screening technology that we have incorporated into our daily practice; it's a way we show our patients that their overall health is important and that dentists and hygienists do so much more than merely checking for cavities.

Patients considered high-risk for oral cancer are: age 40 and older, users of smoking or chewing tobacco, currently or within the past 10 years and users of one or more alcoholic drinks daily, including one beer, one glass of wine or one drink of spirits. Patients with any combination of these risk factors, and patients with a personal history of oral cancer, are considered at highest risk. Alarmingly, 27% of oral cancer victims have no lifestyle risk factors.

If you have any mouth sores that don't seem to heal or see any suspicious marks or discolorations on your lips, cheeks, tongue, palate or gum tissue, call our office and ask about early cancer detection.  



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