Preventing Oral Cancer: 2 Livesaving Screening Tests

Learn about the breakthrough screening tests that can be performed by your dentist, as well as the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. By Jonathan B. Levine, DMD

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Oral cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. In fact, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in 2011 alone and it will cause over 8,000 deaths by the end of the year. This means that roughly 1 person is dying per hour, 24 hours per day, all from something that could have been prevented or slowed with early detection. Oral cancer is one of the easiest cancers to spot and diagnose, yet only 15% of the population has had an oral cancer evaluation.

Breakthrough Screening Tests

There are two new breakthrough screening tests that can be administered by dental professionals that make it simple and painless to diagnose oral cancer. The first is the Velscope, which sees early changes in the cells in the mouth where they become dysplastic or unhealthy. The Velscope’s blue spectrum light causes the soft tissues of the mouth to naturally fluoresce, looking like a green apple color. If there is an abnormality, a dysplasia or unhealthy cell, the oral health professional will see the green color turn black.

If abnormal tissue appears, there is a second revolutionary screening test, the Oral CDX brush. This test is like a pap smear for your mouth. The pap smear has had a huge impact on survival rates for cervical cancer; since routine use, cervical cancer has gone from being the 2nd to the 11th leading cause of death. The Oral CDX brush can save lives in much the same way through an oral cancer screening process.

Jonathan B. Levine, DMD

Article written by Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Clinical Prof. NYU, Prosthodontist, Reconstruction & Aesthetic Dentistry