South Shore Long Island
Periodontics & Implantology P.C.
Dr. Leslie G. Batnick, D.D.S.
Dr. Lois B. Levine, D.D.S.
Dr. Joo H. Kim, D.D.S.
Diplomates, American Board of Periodontology

Oral Pathology

The tissue of your mouth is a special type of skin, referred to as mucosa. When this tissue is healthy, it should feel smooth and be a pink/coral shade. Changes in the mucosa can indicate the presence of serious diseases. One such disease is oral cancer.

Facts About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a serious and often deadly disease. When oral cancer is caught early, it is usually easily treatable. The problem is that it often isn’t caught until it is well-established, and at that point, it is much more challenging to successfully treat.

According to statistics from the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis of pharyngeal or oral cancer each year. And each year, nearly 9,000 people die. Out of the newly diagnosed cases, only a little bit more than half will survive past 5 years. In fact, the death rate for oral cancer is higher than other cancers you’ve probably heard more about, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma, testicular cancer, cervical cancer, and thyroid cancer.

These are obviously highly concerning statistics, and we take them very seriously. Oral cancer screenings are one of the most important parts of each dental visit, especially if you are in any groups that are at a higher risk for oral cancer. These groups include:

  • People over the age of 40, however, oral cancer is being discovered more frequently in people under the age of 40. In these cases, the cancer is often attributed to infection with a particular strain of the human papilloma virus.
  • People who use chewing tobacco
  • People who smoke, particularly those who also drink alcohol heavily
  • Men, although the gender divide is shrinking
  • Black people

What Does Oral Cancer Look Like?

The symptoms associated with oral and pharyngeal cancers include:

  • Erythroplakia (reddish patches) and leukoplakia (whitish patches) on the skin in the mouth
  • A lesion that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
  • Lumpy or thick skin inside the mouth
  • A chronic hoarseness or sore throat
  • Difficulties chewing or swallowing

Where Will These Changes Take Place?

Oral and pharyngeal cancers can be found on any soft tissue in the mouth, including the lips, palate, cheeks, tongue, and gum tissue. Pain doesn’t necessarily occur with oral cancer, so don’t wait to feel pain before contacting a dentist. If you do experience pain, contact us immediately since this can indicate a number of problems. Pain is your body’s way of notifying you that something is wrong, and it should never be ignored.

You likely perform other monthly examinations for growths or lumps, and we encourage you to regularly check the soft tissues of your mouth for anything that looks different. Your mouth is an important warning system for your overall health. If you see anything that looks out of the ordinary, contact us immediately. Never ignore a suspicious lump or sore in the hopes that it will go away. The earlier we catch a problem, the greater the chance we have of successfully treating it.