Earlier this year Dr. McAdams discovered something in a patient’s mouth during a routine dental examination that concerned him enough to order a biopsy. Pathology reports indicated that a small white bump in the area where a molar had been extracted recently was an uncommon form of carcinoma. When caught early (like this was), oral cancers can be removed entirely and without complication. When allowed to progress unchecked, oral cancers can lead to complete removal of the tongue, lower jaw or in severe cases can be fatal.
In early 2013, a patient presented for a routine cleaning with a blood pressure in the range of possible stroke or heart attack. We gave him time to determine if he was suffering from “white coat syndrome” and decided that he should see a physician for a proper diagnosis of his cardiovascular health. The patient hadn’t had his blood pressure checked in years and within days was on a blood pressure control regime with his doctor and his BP is within normal limits during his dental visits now.
The ADA reports that there are over 42,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year in this country. This number is up over 25% from estimates in 2010. With the incidence of oral cancer on the rise, your dental team is a critical piece of your healthcare team who offer you screening services during each exam.
Some things we are checking that you might not be aware of:
1. Medical History Review: Some commonly prescribed medications have a possibility for severe dental interaction. With current information we can keep you informed about your risks of anaphylaxis, dry mouth, osteoradionecrosis (ORN), periodontal hyperplasia, or bisphosphonate related oral necrosis of the jaw (BRONJ) amongst other things. Also, some conditions require pre-medication with antibiotics to prevent infection following routine dental treatment.
2. Blood Pressure Screening: Many of our patients have no idea what their typical blood pressure is, at each checkup we are monitoring your pressures and can compare to our historical records to help you determine if you should see a physician for help with the issue.
3. Oral Cancer Screening: When we ask you to say aahhhhh, or grab your tongue to look underneath it, we are looking for signs of oral cancer, which can include white patches, red bumps or non-healing ulcerations. If we find something, we can help you decide if it warrants further investigation. In almost all cases in our office, patients are unaware of the early beginnings of oral cancer. This is when you want it stopped.
4. Radiographic Evaluation: Routine diagnostic xrays help to determine the health of your teeth and supporting bone. In the standard, low radiation, digital series that we prescribe, your dental team can identify sinus obstruction, potentially metastatic lesions from colon, breast or prostate cancer, and calcification of blood vessels in your neck and jaw that could indicate blockage in blood flow.
Hopefully this information sheds a little light on the importance of routine dental evaluations. We aren’t just checking for cavities, we are evaluating the health of your mouth, which is the gateway to your overall health. We can’t understate the importance of the health connection between your mouth and the rest of your body.
For more information about oral cancers visit the ADA website:
We perform all of these tests during each checkup because we care about the health of our practice and our patients. If you are looking for a Phoenix dental team where you can trust that we take great care of each patient, consider visiting our office. We would love to meet you!