Mill Point Dental, Bend, commemorates April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month
BEND, OR – April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and Dr. Eric Alston, DMD, of Mill Point Dental in Bend, would like to let his patients in on a little secret: he and his fellow dentists perform oral cancer screenings on all patients without fail, even though they may not always be aware of it.
After all, oral and oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat) affects thousands of people each year, with a 5-year survival rate of just 60 percent. Dentists like Dr. Alston are uniquely positioned to catch such cancers early, while treatments are more successful and less severe.
“Without a doubt, dentists can be your first line of defense against such cancers,” said Dr. Alston. “We do oral cancer screenings on every patient on every exam. We don’t have to be told to check for the signs of these cancers. It’s our job to look for the little things, catch them and not wait for it to grow into a big thing.”
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an estimated 54,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed by doctors this year. As a result, an average of one person every hour dies from oral or oropharyngeal cancer. In contrast, many others will face long-term issues like facial disfigurement or trouble eating and speaking.
Dr. Alston said he, along with Mill Point Dental co-owner Dr. Michael Longlet, DDS, witnessed many of these troubling side-effects of oral cancer firsthand while doing residencies in a hospital setting.
“For both of us, it caused us to be pretty particular when we do these screenings, ensuring we check all the right spots,” he said.
An oral cancer screening, says Dr. Alston, starts with a visual examination. The dentist or hygienist will inspect the soft tissues in the mouth, particularly alongside and underneath the tongue. He or she will also check the back of the throat, looking for red or white patches, sores, or growths.
The screening continues with a physical examination, or palpation, of the lower jaw and neck to check for abnormalities. Finally, the 3-D CBCT (cone-beam computed tomography) images taken during the normal course of a dental visit are reviewed for possible tumors in the neck or jaw.
“With the tools we have at our disposal and the access we have when it comes to inspecting mouths, jaws, and throats, we as dentists are uniquely positioned to catch signs of oral cancer that can evade other doctors,” Dr. Alston said. “The 3-D X-ray technology we use for patients is something most medical doctors don’t have readily available to them.”
Because of this, Dr. Alston recommends that people should consider visiting a dentist if they experience sores, growths, or discolorations in the mouths that don’t appear to be healing on their own. A dentist has the tools to examine the issue thoroughly and, if necessary, refer the patient to an ENT physician or an oral surgeon should concerns arise.
To learn more about oral cancer screenings performed by dentists and hygienists at Mill Point Dental in Bend, contact them at (541) 388-0078.
About Mill Point Dental
At Mill Point Dental, our family and cosmetic dentists and our exceptional team are excited to meet you. We treat Central Oregonians of all ages. Happy patients are our passion, and it is our goal to help each person love their smile so they can proudly share it with others. Our practice is committed to offering the most advanced technology to provide patients not only with exceptional treatments but to make the dental experience a little more fun and a little less intimidating.