VELscope Hunts for Oral Cancer
You’d think every time a dentist opened your mouth and looked around that he or she would check for signs of oral cancer. Not so. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the American Dental Association, only 15 percent of patients report having an oral cancer screening as a part of their routine dental appointments.
That’s a crime because cancer of the head and neck is the sixth most common cancer and accounts for 643,000 new cases every year. Failure to diagnose oral cancer is the second leading cause of dental malpractice claims.
At Kalil & Kress, we’re always on the lookout for oral cancer. We believe this is an integral part of every visit to our offices. When we’re acquiring information when you first become a patient, we’ll ask you about medical and family history, if you smoke or chew tobacco, how much alcohol you generally consume, and any history with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
From there, we move to the clinical examination of your mouth. This intra-oral examination includes the cheeks, lip, tongue, hard and soft palates, and gums. This is why we grasp your tongue with gauze and pull it forward or to the side, allowing us to see the base. This is the most common site for oral cancer to develop. We’ll palpate the floor of your mouth and check for changes in color or texture.
Outside the mouth, we’ll take a visual examination of the head and neck. We’ll check your voice for hoarseness. We’ll palpate your TMJ joint, your neck muscles, and the chain of lymph nodes along the neck muscles. This is why we press on areas under your chin. We’re checking the lymph nodes, which can provide pathways for oral cancer to spread.
We also employ the latest technology, known as VELscope. When we use this device to illuminate the inside of your mouth, healthy cells will emit a bright green glow, while areas of concern will appear dark. How effective is VELscope? A recent study of 44 patients compared the results of VELscope against traditional screening techiques. It found that VELscope achieves a sensitivity of 98 percent and specificity of 100 percent when discriminating normal mucosa from severe dysplasia (carcinoma in situ) or invasive carcinoma.
We think those odds are pretty good for our patients.
Is it time for your next exam and professional cleaning? Call us at Kalil & Kress, (603) 880-7004 to make your appointment.