Tag Archives: Oral Cancer

Senior Oral Health Care

Senior Oral Health Care

Proper oral care can keep you smiling well into retirement. Brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush are important. Flossing helps save your teeth by removing plaque between teeth and below the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.

  • What problems should I watch for?
  • Why should I be concerned about gum disease?
  • What if it is too difficult to brush?
  • What are the signs of oral cancer?


What problems should I watch for?

Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria found in plaque that attacks the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and possible bleeding when you brush. If you have any of these symptoms, see Dr. Griffin at once. Gingivitis can lead to a more serious form of gum disease if problems persist.

Why should I be concerned about gum disease?

Three out of four adults over age 35 are affected by some sort of gum (periodontal)disease. In gum disease, the infection may become severe. Your gums begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the worst cases, bacteria form pockets between the teeth and gums, weakening the bone. This can lead to tooth loss if untreated, especially in patients with osteoporosis. If regular oral care is too difficult, Dr. Griffin can provide alternatives to aid in flossing and prescribe medication to keep the infection from getting worse.

What if it is too difficult to brush?

If you have arthritis, you may find it difficult to brush and floss. Ask us for ways to overcome this problem. Certain dental products are designed to make dental care less painful for arthritis sufferers. Try using a battery operated toothbrush with a large handle. These toothbrushes can help by doing some of the work for you.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

Oral cancer most often occurs in people over 40 years of age. See Dr. Griffin immediately if you notice any red or white patches on your gums or tongue, sores that fail to heal within two weeks, or an unusual hard spot on the side of your tongue. Oral cancer is often difficult to detect in its early stages, when it can be cured easily. Dr. Griffin will perform a head and neck exam to screen for signs of cancer.

Three out of four adults over age 35 are affected by some sort of gum (periodontal) disease.

If you have any questions about senior dental care or any other dental issues, please feel free to give us a call here in Carrollton, TX at 972-242-2155.  Or, simply use the “Ask Dr. Griffin” form on this page.

(Information gathered from the Academy of General Dentistry)

Oral Malignant Melanoma & Melanoma Awareness Month

MelanomaOral Malignant Melanoma & Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and you are probably wondering why we are talking about Melanoma Awareness Month on our dental blog? Well, melanoma, which is the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer, can also occur in the mouth.

What Is Melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins when melanocytes, which are the cells that produce darker pigments in the skin, mutate and become cancerous. There are several factors that may increase the risk of getting melanoma, including having fair skin and light eyes, numerous moles, a family history of melanoma, and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and/or tanning beds. Exposure to UV light is thought to be the cause of most melanomas on the skin.

Even though melanoma accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases, it accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. An estimated 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. An estimated 9,730 people will die of malignant melanoma in 2017.

Oral Malignant Melanoma

While malignant melanoma mainly occurs on the skin, it can develop in the oral cavity. Oral malignant melanomas are extremely rare, accounting for only 0.2-8% of all melanoma cancers found on the body, and less than 1% of all cancers found in the mouth. The most common locations oral melanoma are found are the palate (roof of the mouth) and maxillary gingiva (gum tissue on the upper part of the mouth).

Unlike most cases of melanoma of the skin, oral melanoma is not considered to be caused by UV exposure. Additionally, there are no obvious identified risk factors, such as poor oral hygiene, alcohol consumption, smoking, or even family history.

Although oral malignant melanomas are rare, they tend to be more aggressive than melanoma found on the skin and often prove to be fatal.

Signs of Oral Malignant Melanoma

Oral malignant melanomas do not usually have symptoms in the early stages. They may appear as a dark spot or patch on the gum tissue. The color of the spots can vary from dark brown to blue-black, however white, red and lesions the color of the oral tissue have been seen. The lesions may be flat or elevated.

Pain, bleeding, and ulceration are rarely seen until late in the disease, which by that point prognosis and survival rate is very poor.

Diagnosis of oral melanoma is often difficult due to the absence of symptoms in the early stages and they can be confused with a number of asymptomatic, benign, pigmented lesions.

This is why getting yearly oral cancer screenings with Dr. Griffin, is so important. Any suspicious, pigmented lesion of the oral cavity for which no direct cause can be found requires further examination and possibly biopsy. Even though oral malignant melanoma is very rare you can never be too careful.

 

If you have spot you would like Dr. Griffin to look at, please call our office at 972-242-2155. Early and detailed examinations for oral malignant melanoma are critical for improving the survival rate.

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness MonthOral Cancer and Baseball

It’s April!! And, anyone who is a sports fan knows what that means, Major League Baseball is back!! But, did you know April is also Oral Cancer Awareness Month?  And, since baseball and tobacco have such a synonymous relationship, raising awareness of oral cancer during April makes sense.

Baseball and Tobacco

The longtime relationship between baseball and tobacco started in the 19th century, when both tobacco and baseball became wildly popular. Players chewed tobacco because they found it kept their mouths moist on the dry dusty fields and the tobacco spit helped soften the leather of their gloves. And, players have been tucking tobacco between their gums and cheeks ever since. It’s a ritual that has long permeated the game, and a dangerous one at that.

This dangerous ritual has definitely had some devastating effects on some of baseball’s greatest players. The Sultan of Swat, the Great Bambino, and one the greatest baseball players in history, Babe Ruth, died at age 53 of throat cancer, after decades of dipping and chewing. Bill Tuttle, American League outfielder, died after a 5 year battle with oral cancer. Before his death, Tuttle waged a campaign against the use of chewing tobacco after the cancer left him disfigured. Brett Butler, former Major League center fielder, became a passionate advocate against tobacco after he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 1996. Former Major League pitching great, Curt Schilling attributed his oral cancer to three decades of chewing tobacco. And, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54, after a lengthy fight with salivary gland cancer. Gwynn attributed his cancer to longtime smokeless tobacco use.

Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Cancer

Smokeless tobacco contains 28 carcinogens and there is a definitive link between the use of tobacco products and the development of oral cancer. According to Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 49,750 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth.

One of the most troubling aspects of the disease is the survival rate. The survival rate of oral cancers are much lower than that of more well-known cancers, like breast or cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A major reason for those discouraging odds is that oral cancer generally isn’t found until it has reached a later stage of development. As a result, it’s harder to treat successfully. Therefore, early diagnosis of oral cancer is very important — and why it’s vital to become aware of possible warning signs of the disease.

Warning signs of oral cancers include:

  • A sore that won’t heal
  • White, red, or off-color patches
  • An unexplained lump
  • Prolonged sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaw
  • A feeling of something in the throat
  • Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth

Fortunately, dentists are trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer, and Dr. Griffin can often identify possible signs of the disease in its initial stages. We perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental exams, but you can also come in for an examination any time you have a concern. The good news is that recent advances in diagnosing oral cancer offer the hope that more people will get appropriate, timely treatment for this potentially deadly disease.

If you have questions about oral cancer, please contact us by calling (972) 242-2155 for a consultation. Or, you can use the “Ask Dr. Griffin” form at the top of this page.

Watch Your Mouth! April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral Cancer AwarenessApril is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category. This includes cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth, the upper part of the throat (oropharynx), the tonsils, the base of tongue areas, and on the lips.

It is estimated that close to 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 9,575 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 48,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. (Approximately 57%) This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades.

While smoking and tobacco use are still major risk factors, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus, the same virus that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women. A small percentage of people (under 7 %) do get oral cancers from no currently identified cause. It is currently believed that these are likely related to some genetic predisposition.

The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64% due to the fact that the majority of oral cancers are found as late stage cancers. Late stage diagnosis is not occurring because most of these cancers are hard to discover, it is because of a lack of public awareness and the lack of patient compliance with regular dental visits. Regular dental visits 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. Public awareness about this serious disease and its risk factors is crucial to saving lives, and dentists are in a unique position to perform head and neck exams and oral screenings every day that can help us identify abnormalities in the mouth at the earliest stage.

It is also important that you be aware of symptoms in between dental visits and to see Dr. Griffin if you have any of the following symptoms that do not disappear after two weeks:

  • 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 jaw or tongue
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

So, watch your mouth and should you discover something suspicious, call us at 972-242-2155 to make an appointment for an examination. Early detection is key and Dr. Griffin can be a first line of defense in identifying abnormalities in the mouth, which could be signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of your exam during your 6-month hygiene visits to our office. Please make sure to visit Dr. Griffin regularly, get checked, and stay a step ahead of oral cancer.

(Information gathered from the Oral Cancer Foundation and The American Cancer Society)

 

No Butts About It, Smoking Destroys Your Mouth

Smoking & Oral HealthWe’ve all seen the numerous anti-smoking campaigns, magazine ads, and commercials about how bad cigarettes are for your health. Smoking leads to severe health problems, such as cancer, lung disease and heart disease, but did you ever consider the effects smoking has on your mouth? Every puff of smoke starts by passing your lips, tongue, teeth and gums.

No butts about it, smoking destroys your mouth. Here are some of the ways that smoking ruins your dental health:

Tooth Stains – Smoking causes tooth stains and discoloration. Professional dental whitening can reduce the staining, but if you continue to smoke the staining will come back, which means having to whiten your teeth again and more often. This can become costly. Save yourself some money by not smoking at all.

Bad Breath – Smoking significantly reduces saliva production and saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Nicotine, tar, and other chemicals from cigarettes, as well as bacteria cling to your teeth, cheeks, gums, and tongue, and with nothing to help wash it away, leads to “smoker’s breath.”

Tooth Decay – Since smoking interferes with the production of saliva, which has cavity-fighting antibodies that help prevent tooth decay, you are at a higher risk of getting cavities.

Gum Disease – Smokers are several times more likely to get advanced periodontal disease than non-smokers. Tobacco interferes with the function of gum tissue cells. Gums become damaged by separating from the bone, leaving them open to infection. This increases the need for ongoing gum disease treatment.

Tooth Loss – Smoking leads to advanced periodontitis, which eventually leads to bone deterioration and tooth loss.

Black Hairy Tongue – Some smokers can develop a condition known as black hairy tongue, which is a harmless, and most of the time, temporary condition that gives your tongue a dark, furry appearance. Hence, the name Black Hairy Tongue. It is caused from a buildup of dead skin cells on the many tiny projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. These papillae, which are longer than normal, can easily trap food and bacteria or yeast, and be stained by tobacco.

Oral Cancer – If lung cancer isn’t scary enough, studies have shown that smokers are 6 times more at risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers. In fact, 75-90% of oral cancer patients are smokers. This is why oral cancer screenings are so important for smokers.

Early detection of oral cancer is crucial in improving survival rate, which is why Dr. Griffin performs oral cancer screenings as part of your twice yearly, routine check-ups. We also offer ViziLite, a 5-minute test that uses fluorescent light to help identify, evaluate, and monitor abnormal oral lesions and changes in the mucous membranes inside of the mouth and throat that may be difficult to see during a regular visual exam.

The best thing you can do for your mouth and overall health is to quit smoking; it’s the only way to decrease your risk of these and other tobacco-related health problems. It’s not easy, but if you have a plan, set goals and find a good support network to help you, you can do it. There are also many online resources to help you quit smoking, here a few:

American Lung Association: Stop Smoking provides proven tools, tips and support to help you quit smoking.

Smokefree.gov provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.

BeTobaccoFree.gov The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website provides one-stop access to U.S. Government information on tobacco, its health effects, and quitting.

Dr. Griffin and his team are here to help when you decide to kick the habit, you’ll be healthier, happier, and have a smile that you can be proud of! If you have any questions about smoking and its effects on your mouth, or you would like more information oral cancer screenings and ViziLite, feel free to call us, at 972-242-2155. Or, you can use the “Ask Dr. Griffin” form at the top of this page.

 

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness MonthDr. Paul A. Griffin, DDS, PA

April is Oral Cancer Awareness month and In the US approximately 43,250 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014. Oral cancer is the largest group of cancers, which fall into the head and neck cancer category. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth.

Research has identified some factors that may contribute to the development of oral cancer. One factor is the use of tobacco and alcohol and the other is through exposure to the HPV-16 virus (human papilloma virus version 16), a newly identified etiology, and the same one that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women. A small percentage of people (under 7 %) do get oral cancers from no currently identified cause. It is currently believed that these are likely related to some genetic predisposition.

While some think oral cancer is rare, mouth cancer will be diagnosed in about 115 new individuals each day in the US alone. For the past 5 years there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence of oral cancers. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64% due to the fact that the majority of oral cancers are found as late stage cancers. Late stage diagnosis is not occurring because most of these cancers are hard to discover, it is because of a lack of public awareness and the lack of patient compliance with regular dental visits. Regular dental visits 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. Public awareness about this serious disease and its risk factors is crucial to saving lives, and dentists are in a unique position to perform head and neck exams and oral screenings every day that can help us identify abnormalities in the mouth at the earliest stage.

It is also important that you be aware of symptoms in between dental visits and to see Dr. Griffin if you have any of the following symptoms that do not disappear after two weeks:

  • 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 jaw or tongue
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Should you discover something suspicious, call us at 972-242-2155 to make an appointment for an examination. Early detection is key and Dr. Griffin can be a first line of defense in identifying abnormalities in the mouth, which could be signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of your exam during your 6-month hygiene visits to our office. So, please make sure to visit Dr. Griffin regularly, get checked, and stay a step ahead of oral cancer.