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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

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Cancer-Free Mouth

Cancer-Free Mouth

Oral Cancer Statistics

What do you know about oral cancer?  According to the CDC and Oral Cancer Foundation, the following are some prominent statistics about oral cancer.

  • 41,000 people are diagnosed yearly in the United States
  • Oral cancer is responsible for approximately 12,000 deaths per year
  • 66% of people will be diagnosed with oral cancer at a late stage of the disease—at stages three and four
  • Past risks of oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol use, and being over 40 years of age
  • Today, the face of oral cancer is changing with the fastest growing population in younger ages, ranging from 18 to 40 years of age
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a known risk factor and independent causative factor for oral cancer

How Can HPV Affect My Mouth?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) includes 130 unique types of double-stranded circular DNA viruses capable of producing epithelial tumors of the skin and mucous membrane.  HPV-16 and HPV-18 are high risk strains which are responsible for 70% of cervical carcinomas.  The molecular evidence for HPV-16 in Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), or oral cancer, is as strong as it is for cervical cancer. HPV -16 and 18 account for 92% of HPV positive OPSCC.  In the U.S., OPSCC due to HPV has climbed to 50%.  That’s a strong direct correlation between HPV and oral cancer!

Clinical studies show that HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma are seen more likely in a higher socio-economic environment, and is most prevalent in the range of 40 to 59 years of age.  The ratio of males versus females affected is 3 to 1.  And sexual behavior is a high risk factor!  HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma are seen mostly on the palatine tonsils and the base of the tongue, though early signs are not clinically evident.

Everyone Needs an Oral Cancer Screening

At Atlanta Smiles and Wellness, we perform an Oral Cancer Screening at every one of your cleaning appointments.  If we see anything that is not within normal limits, we will either decide to biopsy the area or will document it with digital radiographs and photographs in order to observe the area until it has cleared or been removed.  Oral cancer is commonly seen on the lateral posterior borders and the dorsal side of the tongue.  Both areas are very difficult for you to check on your own and are not areas that are seen when just looking into your mouth.  If you have any questions about oral cancer or any concerns about a particular spot or area in your mouth, be sure to schedule an appointment.  The best way to optimum health is to see trained professionals regularly, and when it comes to oral cancer, early detection is key!

While You Are Sleeping

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Sleep Apnea is a hot topic these days.  Our own Dr. Giesler and Dr. Kovitch wrote an article about sleep apnea that was published in Best Self magazine.  And well it should be.  According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is so common that it affects more than 18 million people in America.  However, 1 of every 27 people (or 3.68%) are undiagnosed.  That’s over 10 million Americans.

And it’s more than just snoring and poor sleeping habits at night.  Sleep apnea can be the cause of many side effects, including sleepiness during the day, moodiness, low energy and focus, headaches, increased body weight, and it can even cause you to be more likely to have a heart attack while sleeping.  These symptoms don’t just apply to the stereotypical “overweight male over 40” either.  Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea regardless of their gender, age or health, even children.

Alternative Treatment Options

Most people think that the only treatment for sleep apnea is a snore mask called a CPAP machine.  We’ve all seen it on TV shows and movies, and some of us may even shudder at the thought of having to wear an apparatus akin to a Darth Vader mask to sleep.  Though the CPAP machine is traditionally the most commonly prescribed method, there are other alternatives to treating this serious condition that are both less bulky and less offensive to your partner!

As featured recently on The Doctors’ Show, a new surgery claims to cure it by moving the tongue out of the way during sleep, timed in conjunction with the sleeper’s own breathing patterns.   However, for those of you not ready to try a new and invasive surgical procedure, Atlanta Smiles & Wellness has an alternative (and less expensive) form of treatment that sleep apnea sufferers who are CPAP intolerant can use.

Dr. Giesler and Dr. Kovitch tell their patients that a CPAP machine is the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, but not all patients can tolerate the mask and end up storing it under their beds to collect dust.  Surprisingly, only about 40% of patients with a snore mask actually use it!  For the other 60%, a two-piece oral appliance worn during sleep that creates a space for the air to travel, thus preventing the soft tissue from collapsing and disrupting breathing patterns, may be a more feasible solution.  This alternative treatment is not only quieter and more comfortable, it is also much smaller than the CPAP machine (which makes it more convenient for travel as well).

A Sleep Study Is the Only Way to Know for Sure

75% of us have at least one of the above-mentioned symptoms of this condition.  So, how do you know if you have sleep apnea?  The only true way to be diagnosed is to participate in a sleep study.  For more information on sleep studies in your area, please consult your physician.  Or if you do not have a regular physician, we would be happy to refer you to one.  At Atlanta Smiles and Wellness, we care about more than just giving you a beautiful smile.