First off, you’re very fortunate to have a dentist who is so attentive! One of the wonderful services that dentists can do for a patient is to potentially save their lives by early detection of oral cancer. One of the most deadly forms of cancer is squamous cell carcinoma that originates in the mouth because in its early stages it looks “normal.” It is now considered to be a basic responsibility of every dentist to perform routine oral cancer examinations.
Several years ago, suspicious white or red patches that were small and relatively “normal” in appearance may have been “watched” to see if they changed or got worse. Only if an obvious change for the worse were observed would a dentist refer a patient to have the spot removed by a surgeon. The problem with this approach was that many precancerous changes occur in skin that are invisible, and the cancer may spread while the “spot” was being “watched”. Unfortunately, if the dentist was lucky enough to see the patient back in time to refer for a biopsy, the cancer may have spread so much that treatment was very disfiguring, and maybe even life threatening. On the other hand, if the suspicious patch turned out to be in fact normal, then referring too early would have meant subjecting the patient to an unnecessary surgical procedure.
Today, however, we have a wonderful new technology that enables dentists to screen irregular areas in the mouth that hint at a possible bigger problem. It’s called the Oral CDx brush biopsy and is very simple and quick to perform. Essentially, the dentist rubs a suspicious area on the tongue or cheek with something that looks like a ring made from a pipe cleaner. The skin cells removed this rubbing are put on a microscope slide and sent to the laboratory where a very sophisticated computer scans for abnormal cells. In a few days, the dentist gets a report back that says that the sample was “normal” or “abnormal, warranting further investigation”. We are 94-96% certain that a “normal” reading is true, and that we should revert to “watching” the spot for changes. If any report other than “normal” comes back, then the dentist may opt to perform or refer for a surgical biopsy of the sight, which gives a clearer diagnosis of the suspicious area. What the Oral CDx biopsy does for our patients today is allow us to detect oral cancer much earlier than we used to be able to do. Fortunately, when caught early enough, surgical removal of all of the cancer may be accomplished by the scalpel biopsy alone. During the past five years since I’ve been using the Oral CDx biopsy system, 3 oral cancer cases have been treated very successfully with the scalpel biopsy as the only treatment necessary. This translates into 3 lives saved! So, if your dentist is concerned about an area in your mouth, or if you have a spot that you’re concerned about, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist about the Oral CDx biopsy…. PLEASE.