Oral Surgery

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What is Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery?

It is a dental speciality which deals with the surgery of maxillofacial region – mouth, face and facial bones, neck etc

Who is an Maxillofacial surgeon?

One who is specialized in the field of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and deals with surgeries involving oral and maxillofacial region like:

  • Extraction of Badly damaged and broken teeth
  • Impacted wisdom tooth surgeries
  • Fractures of the facial bones and other injuries to the face (maxillofacial trauma)
  • Orthognathic surgery (i.e.,Correction of deformities of jaw and facial bones, cosmetic surgeries etc)
  • Infections, Cysts and tumors of the oro facial region
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Biopsies in the oral and facial region
  • Cancers of the oral and maxillofacial region
  • Temperomandibular joint surgeries
  • Rhinoplasty (cosmetic nose surgery)
  • Dental Implants

Extraction of Teeth

Extraction is the removal of complete tooth or the tooth root with minimum damage to the adjoining structures.

When does a tooth need to be extracted?

  • When the tooth becomes too loose ( in case of severe gum / bone disease ).
  • Tooth with large cavity which cannot be filled.
  • Broken teeth.
  • Tooth with large underlying infection.
  • Over retained deciduous / milk teeth.
  • When a milk tooth is blocking the permanent teeth from coming up
  • Impacted teeth, wisdom teeth or others which may interfere with the orthodontic treatment.
  • Teeth involved in pathologies like cysts / tumors.

 Is tooth extraction / removal painful ?

Extraction is a painless procedure in majority of the cases. This is done by injecting a local anaesthetic solution around the tooth being extracted, which blocks all the pain while preserving the other sensations.  The numbness may stay for 1to 2 hours after which it gradually recedes.

Are stitches necessary?

Stitches are not needed for the majority of extractions which are straightforward. But sometimes when the tooth is difficult to remove (gums around the teeth need to be incised &opened) or multiple teeth are removed in one sitting, stitches may be required.

Does removal of teeth affects eye sight?

Removal of teeth in no case affects the vision of the person and is not related to whether an upper or lower tooth is being extracted.

What if an infected tooth is not extracted?

Infection from the tooth may start spreading into the surrounding bone and gums. The bacteria may multiply rapidly from there to form an acute infection causing swelling, fever, severe pain, difficulty in opening the mouth, formation of extraoral sinus with pus discharge. This infection if left untreated may progress on to deeper tissues of head and neck and become life threatening in severe cases.

What are the possible complications of tooth extraction / removal ?

Pain, infection, difficulty in mouth opening, dry socket etc are possible complications. But these are very rare when the procedure is done properlyand followed the post-operative instructions correctly.

Impacted Teeth

IMPACTED TEETH (IMPACTED WISDOM TOOTH REMOVAL SURGERY)

Wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, are the last set of teeth to develop. Sometimes these teeth emerge from the gum line and the jaw is large enough to allow room for them, but most of the time, this is not the case. More often, one or more of these third molars fails to emerge in proper alignment or fails to fully emerge through the gum line and becomes entrapped or “impacted” between the jawbone and the gum tissue. Impacted teeth can result in swelling, pain, and infection of the cheek & gum tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth. In addition, impacted wisdom teeth can cause permanent damage to nearby teeth, gums, and bone and can sometimes lead to the formation of cysts or tumors that can destroy sections of the jaw. Therefore, we recommend to people with such teeth to undergo impacted wisdom tooth removal surgery.

It’s not just wisdom teeth that sometimes become impacted and need to be removed. Other teeth, such as the cuspids and the bicuspids can become impacted and can cause the same types of problems described with impacted wisdom teeth.

Wisdom tooth should be extracted in following conditions:

  • Repeated history of pain
  • Swelling
  • Pus discharge
  • Cavities in the Wisdom teeth
  • Tooth positioned in a manner, which will likely cause problems in the future
  • X-ray revealsLocalised gum infection and damage to adjacent teeth

 Wisdom tooth should not be extracted in following conditions:

  • Teeth erupted in healthy position
  • No signs of cavities or gum diseases
  • Teeth are very deeply impacted or in a very risky position and likely not to bother you for rest of your life

Is impacted wisdom tooth removal surgery very painful?

Impacted teeth removal (also wisdom teeth removal) is absolutely painless. It is slightly uncomfortable and tiring due to the length of the procedure. Some patients may experience some pain and discomfort post removal but it depends on:

  • Your threshold for pain
  • How difficult was your tooth removal?
  • How long the operative procedure lasted?

You will be given a prescription post surgery, and as long as you follow the instructions pain and discomfort are minimal.

What kind of Anaesthesia is required?

Generally, simple and uncomplicated procedures are usually performed under local anesthesia. However, patients with low pain tolerance and requiring complicated procedures can be done under general anesthesia also.

What are the restrictions following the impacted wisdom tooth removal surgery?

  • We advise patients to avoid strenuous physical activity for 24 hrs following surgery, but no restrictions for routine daily activities.
  • Smoking before and after surgery can cause dry socket or delayed healing. You should stop smoking completely until the extraction sockets heal, which may take couple of weeks.
  • Similar restrictions apply for alcoholic and aerated beverages.
  • There will be restriction on certain foods for 24 hrs as well.

 What about discomfort following the surgery?

  • Some difficulty in opening your mouth wide is expected from the 1st post surgery day of the surgery, but this will gradually return to normal. Mouth opening exercises help open the mouth earlier.
  • Some patients experience temporary difficulty or soreness when swallowing.
  • You will experience swelling around your jaws at the site of surgery, which generally increases for 48-72 hrs following which it tends to subside. Swelling can vary tremendously among patients and between different procedures.

UNCOMMON COMPLICATIONS

  • Numbness – The roots and jawbone surrounding the lower wisdom teeth can be positioned very close to the nerves that supply sensation to your chin, lip, and tongue. While removing lower wisdom teeth, these nerves can sometimes be stretched or injured so that even after the local anesthetic wears off, you might feel an altered sensation in your chin/lip/tongue. However, permanent numbness is a very rare condition and generally this condition heals by itself over a period of time.
  • Oro antral communication – Sometimes the root of a deep seated upper tooth may be in close vicinity or within the maxillary sinus and a communication may occur between the oral cavity and the sinus during the extraction. This may heal by itself or can be managed efficiently by the oral surgeon.

Orthognathic Surgery

COSMETIC JAW SURGERY

Orthognathic surgery is an operation to reposition the jaws. (Ortho means straighten, gnathia means jaw in Latin). The operation aims to correct imbalances between the upper and lower jaws.

It is not always possible to correct your teeth and achieve the bite using only orthodontics (braces). This is because the bones of your face and jaws, in which the teeth are positioned, may be out of balance with one another. (For example, you may have a larger lower jaw and a normal sized upper jaw).

It is not always possible to correct your teeth and acheive the bite using only orthodontics (braces). This is because the bones of your face and jaws, in which the teeth are positioned, may be out of balance with one another. (For example, you may have a larger lower jaw and a normal sized upper jaw).

Orthognathic surgery is able to correct larger jaw discrepancies and improve both the bite of your teeth as well as your appearance by altering the shape of the face.

Why do I need Orthognathic Surgery?

  • When you have any difficulty in chewing or biting.
  • When you dont like your facial appearance from the front.
  • When you dont like your facial appearance from the side.
  • When you have a protruding jaw or no chin.
  • When you have an open bite.

What is the First Step?

The first consultation is a very important part of your treatment. It is an opportunity to meet the team consisting maxillofacial surgeon and orthodontist.

Your doctor will assess your expectations and also establish the diagnosis. They will take photos, dental impressions for study models, x-rays or CT scans needed to assess your case.

If your condition warrants surgery,then this will be explained to you about the realistic outcome, the required time frame and also any risks involved.

It is normal to need orthodontic treatment before as well as after the surgery. It is important to use braces to move the teeth to make sure that they will meet together correctly after the operation.

How is orthognathic surgery performed?

The surgery may be limited to either the upper or lower jaw or in some cases both jaws (bimaxillary osteotomy).

In the vast majority of cases all surgery is all done from inside the mouth, so there are no external scars. The jawbones are repositioned and secured by tiny plates and screws made from pure titanium, which remain under the gums and are not seen in the mouth. Immediately following the surgery the teeth are not normally wired together. Small elastic bands are placed between the top and bottom braces to guide the teeth into their new bite after a day or so.

Which type of Anaesthetic will be used?

Surgery will require a general anaesthetic which will involve admission to a Hospital.

Preparing to have your surgery

Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your procedure. For example,

  • If you smoke, you will be advised to stop as this significantly increases your risk of wound infection, slowing your recovery.
  • Some types of medication you take may also require special consideration.
  • Since you are having a general anaesthetic, you will be asked to follow fasting instructions, this means not eating or drinking for some hours prior to the procedure. You will be given specific instructions by the hospital prior to your admission date.
  • Most patients will remain in hospital for 2 nights and you should probably plan to be away from work for two weeks after you are discharged from hospital.

Recovery from the Surgery

  • After the operation you will have some swelling and bruising. This will rapidly begin to subside over the first 2 – 3 weeks.
  • For operations on the lower jaw it is fairly common to have some numbness of the lower lip for some weeks or months afterwards. In a very small number of cases a residual area of numbness will remain. This numbness will not affect movement of your lip.
  • However patients recover at different rates. It takes around 4-6 weeks for the total bone healing and 3-4 months for the facial muscles to get adapted.

Risks & Complications

This is usually a very safe procedure which is carried out regularly by specialised and experienced surgeons. Complications in this type of surgery are, fortunately, rare and may not apply to you but it is important that you are aware of them. These may include:

  • Numbness – At times the lips will be numb immediately after the operation, similar to the sensation of an injection of local anaesthetic at the dentist. Very rarely sensation never completely returns. (The lip still looks and moves normally and only exceptionally does it bother patients).
  • Infection – The tiny fixing plates are usually left in place permanently. In less than 10% of cases the plates may have to be removed if they become infected
  • Re-adjustment of the bite – In rare circumstances the bite may require some more adjustments
  • Relapse of the operation – With most patients significant relapse is not a problem. However those who are having complicated surgery (movements of 10mm or more in one jaw, patients previously having had a cleft palate, or those with a particularly unusual bite) a relapse can occur. If relapse does occur, it is exceptionally rare for this to be significant. Your Consultant will discuss the risks that are specific to you.

Facial Infections

Fascial Spaces are potential spaces present between the different tissues constituting the head and neck , like, the muscles, bones & fascia.

Spread of infection

In case an infection arising the oral cavity (decayed teeth, infected gums, infected salivary gland etc), is allowed to progress unchecked, they tend to spread to the adjacent tissues, through which they may reach these fascial spaces.

It must be stressed that the fascial spaces in the body are contiguous. It is quite likely that infection in a particular fascial space will spread to adjacent ones. For example, Ludwig’s angina constitutes an infection that has spread to involve the submental (area below the chin) and bilateral submandibular (area below the lower jaw) and sublingual (area under the tongue) spaces which could cause impingement and blockage of the airway. Therefore, a seemingly ‘simple’ tooth infection, under the right circumstances, may have serious complications.

How do I recognize Facial Space Infection?

You should be worried if you have a decayed tooth or any other infection in the mouth…(removed sentence)

  • The presence of Swelling , Trismus (inability to open mouth), Dysphonia (changes in voice) or dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) would need to be treated urgently and aggressively. 

How are these Infections Treated

  • These infections are often cured by surgical intervention known as Incision & Drainage,

along with antibiotics and analgesics whichare aimed as supportive measures.

Facial Injuries

INJURIES OF THE JAWS AND FACE

Facial injuries can affect the upper jaw, lower jaw, cheek, nose, eye socket. They maybe in some cases limited to only soft tissues of the face and mouth, or in severe cases, involve the jaw bones and bones of the facial skeleton.

Facial injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities.
  • Motor vehicle crashes.
  • Falls.
  • Fights.

 How is a Facial Injury Diagnosed?

                When making a diagnosis, your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history, including any events that may have caused your facial injury.

A thorough physical and medical examination will also be conducted, to note any injuries to your face and other parts of your body. This may be followed by relevant X-rays and CT scan of the head and face. Specific X-rays are needed depending on exact nature and site of injuries.

Many people with facial injuries also suffer from additional injuries. In such cases additional x-rays, investigations and consultations with other medical specialists may be needed.

Our dental clinic is equipped with Cone Beam CT SCAN, OPG/Panorama Xrays and RVGs to assess the  jaw and facial bone fractures.

Treatment for a facial injury

Depending on these factors, a decision may be made to treat the injury surgically or non-surgically. 

  • Non-surgical treatment mostly consists of stabilizing the jaw bones by using wires and certain other equipment and supported with analgesics and antibiotics. This is usually done when
  • The injuries are minor
  • Patient is medically unfit for surgery
  • General anesthesia cannot be given
  • Surgical treatment involves surgical exposure of the fracture sites, which are then aligned and fixed with titanium miniplates& screws, lag screws etc.
    • Most common approach for fixing jaw fractures is from inside the mouth, thus avoiding any risk of scarring.
    • Some facial fractures though may need incisions on the face, but are placed in certain areas and skin creases, so that they are not prominent after healing.
    • This requires general anesthesia in most cases followed by stabilization of both the jaws together for a few weeks.

What happens after surgery?

  • If you had a general anesthetic you will need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days in case you experience problems and need help.
  • You will be given instructions about looking after the surgical site when you go home and suitable pain medication and appropriate antibiotics or mouthwashes to take home.
  • Stitches are usually removed 10-14 days after the surgery.

Recovery from the Surgery

  • After the operation you will have some swelling and bruising. This will rapidly begin to subside over the first 1-2 weeks.
  • It takes 6-8 weeks for the complete healing of the jaw bone fractures, but you can resume to your routine work after 2 weeks of surgery
  • For operations on the lower jaw it is fairly common to have some numbness of the lower lip for some weeks or months afterwards. In a very small number of cases a residual area of numbness will remain. 

 

Jaw Cysts and Tumors

JAW CYSTS AND BENIGN JAW TUMORS

A cyst is a sack or pouch which forms within tissues and contains fluid. Around the face and mouth they can develop under the skin, under the mouth lining, within the saliva glands, and within the jawbones.

There are several different types of cysts within the jawbones.

  • The commonest type is called a periapical cyst. These develop around the roots of teeth due to chronic infection.
  • Some cysts can develop around an un-erupted tooth such as a wisdom tooth. These are called dentigerous cysts.
  • There are other few jaw cysts developing from cells that form teeth, known as odontogenic cysts.

How are Jaw Cysts Diagnosed?

Jaw cysts grow very slowly and in the vast majority of cases patients do not have any symptoms. They are often discovered as an incidental finding when x-rays are taken to look for other things. But, if the cyst becomes infected they can become painful.

Following an examination and x-rays, the surgeon will be able to establish accurate diagnosis with CBCT scan which gives a 3-D view and aids the surgery.

How are Jaw Cysts Treated?

The treatment for cysts is to remove them. This is done by a small incision inside the mouth and removal of part of the bonein majority of the cases. But sometimes, due to the size or location of the cyst, incision may have to made outside the mouth too. Occasionally when cysts are very large it may be possible to treat them by surgical decompression.

Following the surgery the cyst is sent to a specialist pathologist for examination under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

What type of anaesthetic will be used?

Depending on the size & location of the cyst, as well as, taking into account your general health and your previous experiences of having dental treatment local or general anesthesia maybe administered.

Recovery from your procedure

  • You should expect some discomfort initially. There may be some facial swelling, bruising, pain or jaw stiffness for up to two weeks. These symptoms are usually at their worst for the first two or three days and then gradually improve.
  • To begin with, you should eat soft foods, gradually returning to your usual diet once your jaw feels more comfortable.

Benign Jaw Tumors

A tumor is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells which are normally present in the body. Benign tumors not a cancerous growths and are not life threatening. These behave like jaw cysts ( but are solid growths) in most aspects. Around the face and mouth they can develop under the skin, under the mouth lining, within the saliva glands, and within the jawbones.

Although they are usually not life threatening, they can be quite aggressive and destructive locally. So if left untreated, they have the potential to cause permanent disfigurement or disability.

Treatment aspects broadly follow the same pattern as the Jaw Cysts.

 

 

Trismus

What happens if there is trismus (inability to open mouth)?

This condition may impair eating, impede oral hygiene, restrict access for dental procedures and

adversely affect speech and facial appearance.

What is Normal Opening of the Mouth?

The normal range of mouth opening varies from patient to patient, within a

range of 40– 60 mm, although some authors place the lower limit at 35 mm.9,10 The width of the index finger at the nail bed is between 17 and 19 mm. Thus, two fingers’ breadth (40 mm) up to three

fingers’ breadth (54–57 mm) is the usual width of opening. Males show greater mouth opening than females.

What are the causes of trismus?

Several conditions may cause orpredispose an individual to developtrismus. The aetiology of trismus may beclassified as follows:

  • Infection;
  • Trauma;
  • Dental treatment;
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders;
  • Tumours and oral care;
  • Drugs;
  • Radiotherapy and chemotherapy;
  • Congenital problems;
  • Miscellaneous disorders.

 

How to Treat Trismus?

Underlying condition has to be treated, and that relieves the trismus over time. Hence consultation with OMF Surgeon or oral medicine specialist is mandatory, because accurate diagnosis of the underlying condition is important and forms the basis of further treatment.

Cleft Lip & Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.

  • A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
  • A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, a cleft palate without a cleft lip, or both together.

What Causes a Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

In most cases, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown. Most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There appears to be a greater chance of clefting in a newborn if a sibling, parent, or relative has had the problem.

Another potential cause may be related to a medication a mother may have taken during her pregnancy. Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb.

What Problems Are Associated With Cleft Lip and/or Palate?

  • Eating problems. With a separation or opening in the palate, food and liquids can pass from the mouth back through the nose.
  • Ear infections/hearing loss.Children with cleft palate are at increased risk of ear infections since they are more prone to fluid build-up in the middle ear. If left untreated, ear infections can cause hearing loss.
  • Speech problems. Children with cleft lip or cleft palate may also have trouble speaking. These children’s voices don’t carry well, the voice may take on a nasal sound, and the speech may be difficult to understand. Not all children have these problems and surgery may fix these problems entirely for some.
  • Dental Problems. Children with clefts are more prone to a larger than average number of cavities and often have missing, extra, malformed, or displaced teeth requiring dental and orthodontic treatments. In addition, children with cleft palate often have an alveolar ridge defect. These problems can usually be repaired through oral surgery.

 Who Treats Children With Cleft Lip and/or Palate?

The health care team works together to develop a plan of care to meet the individual needs of each patient. Treatment usually begins in infancy and often continues through early adulthood.

  • An OMF surgeon to reposition segments of the upper jaw when needed, to improve function and appearance and to repair the cleft of the gum
  • An orthodontist to straighten and reposition teeth
  • A dentist to perform routine dental care
  • A prosthodontist to make artificial teeth and dental appliances to improve the appearance and to meet functional requirements for eating and speaking
  • A speech therapist to work with the child to improve speech.

What’s the Treatment for Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

cleft lip may require one or two surgeries depending on the extent of the repair needed. The initial surgery is usually performed by the time a baby is 3 months old.

Repair of a cleft palate often requires multiple surgeries till the age of 18 years. The first surgery to repair the palate usually occurs when the baby is between 6 and 12 months old. The initial surgery creates a functional palate, reduces the chances that fluid will develop in the middle ears, and aids in the proper development of the teeth and facial bones. Children with a cleft palate may also need a bone graft when they are about 8 years old to fill in the upper gum line so that it can support permanent teeth and stabilize the upper jaw. About 20% of children with a cleft palate require further surgeries to help improve their speech. Once the permanent teeth grow in, braces are often needed to straighten the teeth.

Additional surgeries may be performed to improve the appearance of the lip and nose, close openings between the mouth and nose, help breathing, and stabilize and realign the jaw. Final repairs of the scars left by the initial surgery will probably not be performed until adolescence, when the facial structure is more fully developed.

What Is the Outlook for Children With Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate?

Although treatment for a cleft lip and/or cleft palate may extend over several years and require several surgeries depending upon the involvement, most children affected by this condition can achieve near normal appearance, speech, and eating.

Dental Care for Children With Cleft Lips and/or Palates

Generally, the preventive and restorative dental care needs of children with clefts are the same as for other children. However, children with cleft lip and cleft palate may have special problems related to missing, malformed, or malpositioned teeth that require close monitoring.

Nose Correction

RHINOPLASTY

Rhinoplasty is surgery to reshape the nose. It can make the nose larger or smaller; change the angle of the nose in relation to the upper lip; alter the tip of the nose; or correct bumps, indentations, or other defects in the nose.

During rhinoplasty, the surgeon makes incisions to access the bones and cartilage that support the nose. The incisions are usually made inside the nose so that they are invisible after the surgery. Depending on the desired result, some bone and cartilage may be removed, or tissue may be added (either from another part of the body or using a synthetic filler). After the surgeon has rearranged and reshaped the bone and cartilage, the skin and tissue is redraped over the structure of the nose. A splint is placed outside the nose to support the new shape of the nose as it heals.

Rhinoplasty may be done using general or local anesthesia. It is usually done as an outpatient procedure but sometimes requires a 1-night stay in the hospital or surgery center.

 What To Expect After Surgery?

  • The splint and bandaging around your nose will be removed in about a week.
  • Your face will feel puffy and the area around your eyes and nose will be bruised and swollen for several days. Cold compresses can help minimize the swelling and reduce pain. It takes about 10 to 14 days before most of the swelling and bruising improves.

 When is it done?

In simple terms, rhinoplasty is required in 2 types of situations

  • Cosmetic reasons. Rhinoplasty can change the size, shape, and angle of your nose and bring it into better proportion with the rest of the face.
  • Functional reasons. Rhinoplasty may also correct structural problems with the nose that cause chronic congestion and breathing problems. 

How Well does it Work?

The results of rhinoplasty may be minor or significant, depending on what kind of correction you want. It is important that you and your maxillofacial surgeon / ENT / plastic surgeon agree on the goals of the surgery. If your expectations are realistic and your surgeon shares them, he will probably be able to give you the results you want.

The results of rhinoplasty are permanent, although subsequent injury or other factors can alter the nose’s appearance. Cosmetic surgery should only be done on a fully developed nose. Complete development has usually occurred by age 15 or 16 in females and by age 17 or 18 in males. If surgery is done before this time, continued development of the nose can alter the surgical results and possibly cause complications.

One of the prominent features of the face, the nose can have a big impact on your self-image and appearance. If you’re unhappy with your nose and have been so for a long time, rhinoplasty is a reasonable option to consider. As with other cosmetic procedures, you are more likely to be happy with the results of rhinoplasty if you have clear, realistic expectations about what the surgery can achieve and if you share these with the surgeon.

Oral Cancer

Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. 

What are the warning signs of Oral Cancer?

  • Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
  • The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks

If you notice any of these changes, contact your dentist or health care professional immediately. 

Risk factors for the development of oral cancer include:

  • Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.
  • Smokeless tobacco users. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
  • Family history of cancer.
  • Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain HPV strains are etiologic risk factors for oral cancer. 

How Is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

As part of your routine dental exam, your dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening exam. More specifically, your dentist will feel for any lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. When examining your mouth, your dentist will look for any sores or discolored tissue as well as check for any signs and symptoms mentioned above.

A biopsy may be needed if any tissue in your mouth looks suspicious. This test is painless and involves taking a small sample of the tissue and analyzing it for abnormal cells. This procedure usually requires only local anesthesia. These tests are necessary to detect oral cancer early, before it has had a chance to progress and spread.

How Is Oral Cancer Treated?

Oral cancer is treated with surgery to remove the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?

  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol consumption as far as possible.
  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • When in the sun, use UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotions on your skin, as well as your lips.

You can take an active role in detecting oral cancer early, should it occur, by doing the following:

  • Conduct a self exam at least once a month. Using a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your mouth & lips. Visit an OMF Surgeon immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
  • See your dentist on a regular schedule.  Early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment.