Abbott Family Dentistry

Abbott Family Dentistry, LLC

Oral Cancer Screening

Like every dentist should, here at Abbott Family Dentistry, LLC, a soft tissue exam is part of every exam.  Part of that soft tissue exam is to evaluate for signs of oral cancer.  Please do not panic if the doctor ever suggests you return to re-evaluate a suspect area or if a biopsy is advised.  In Dr. Pierson's over 24 years of practice, only one case of oral cancer has ever been found and it was cured with the biopsy.  

The key to surviving oral cancer is to detect it early!  The statistics are highly suggestive: when discovered early the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer patients is about 83%. Unfortunately, most cases of oral cancer are discovered in late stages, when the five-year survival rate drops to around 50 percent.  To aid in detecting oral cancer there are tools available and here at Abbott Family Dentistry, LLC we have a device called a VelScope.  The VelScope is used for enhanced visualization of the oral mucosal abnormalities, such as oral cancer or pre-malignant dysplasia, by enabling Dr. Pierson to evaluate the tissue using "TISSUE FLUORESCENCE VISUALIZATION". The VelScope device is sensitive to abnormal tissue changes and the distinctive blue-spectrum light causes the soft tissue (oral mucosa) of the mouth to naturally fluoresce. Healthy tissues fluoresce in distinct patterns that may be visibly disrupted when tissue undergoes an abnormal change (which can occur in the oral mucosa for a multitude of reasons,) such as when associated with dysplasia or oral cancer.

New research confirms that the risk factors for oral cancer have been expanded to include the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16), in addition to tobacco use, frequent and/or excessive alcohol consumption, a compromised immune system, and past history of cancer. This changing demographic presents an unprecedented call to action for oral cancer awareness and regular screenings.  Dr. Pierson does not use the VelScope on all exams as it is not necessary on all exams.  If there is a suspicious area the VelScope is then used to enhance the evaluation of that area.  If you are a patient with a past history of cancer, please let Dr. Pierson know as these patients are evaluated with the VelScope at least annually.

If a soft tissue area needs further evaluation a biopsy or Brush Biopsy may be determined to be needed.  A Brush Biopsy is a way to get a sample of tissue down to the basal layer without using a cutting procedure.  If the Brush Biopsy then confirms abnormalities that warrant a traditional biopsy, Dr. Pierson would either do that himself or refer to an oral surgeon depending on the presentation of the area of concern or the results of the Brush Biopsy.