How Does Oral Cancer Happen?


Andra Mahoney BS RDH

Two weeks ago, Becky gave us some great info raising our Awareness to Oral Cancer.  She touched on the importance of screenings and mentioned the risk factors.

But How Does Oral Cancer Happen?

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, about 48,000 people are diagnosed each year.  Of those, about 9,500 people will loose their battle with oral cancer.  Of the 48,000 people diagnosed, only 57% of them will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.  Sadly, the number of diagnosis and deaths have not decreased over the last decade.

Let’s review the risk factors in detail…


Probability dictates that the older you get, the more likely you have a chance of getting cancer.  Therefore, age will be a risk factor.  Oral Cancer is more often detected in those over the age of 40.  However, this statistic is changing with the prevalence of HPV.  We will talk more about this in a following section.

Although age does play a part, around 91% of all diagnoses of Oral Cancer are linked to “lifestyle” choices.
These following risk factors will show us why.

Sun Exposure

Excessive and unprotected exposure to the sun is linked with cancer in the lip area. To reduce your risk of lip cancer, decrease your unprotected exposure to sunlight and other sources of ultraviolent (UV) radiation.  (1)

Sun exposure and other sources of UV radiation can damage lip cells.  This damage can cause them to multiple when naturally they should die.  Fast reproduction of abnormal cells is how we classify cancer.

Tobacco Use (use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others)

The report from the Institute of Medicine (2007) says that tobacco kills more Americans annually than AIDS, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicides, suicides, car accidents, and fires combined.

Nationally, tobacco contributes to about one-third of U.S. cancer, one-quarter of heart disease and about 490,000 premature deaths each year. Tobacco is a known cause of lung, bladder, mouth, pharyngeal, pancreatic, kidney, stomach, laryngeal, and esophageal cancer. About ten million people in the U.S. have died from causes attributed to smoking and tobacco use (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since 1964. Tobacco is the most global cause of cancer, and it is preventable. (2)

There are thousands of chemicals contained in a single cigarette, and their point of entry is the mouth.  Smoking helps to transforms saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous. (3)

If you would like help on quitting, please check out the resources on this page:

Alcohol Use

People who consume approximately 3.5 or more alcoholic drinks per day, or 21 drinks in a week, have at least a two to three times greater risk of developing cancer than nondrinkers. (4)

Those who both smoke and drink, have a 15 times greater risk of developing oral cancer than others.

Alcohol’s effect on the mouth may be the key to understanding how it works with tobacco to increase the risk of developing cancer. The dehydrating effect of alcohol on cell walls enhances the ability of tobacco carcinogens to permeate mouth tissues; additionally, nutritional deficiencies associated with heavy drinking can lower the body’s natural ability to use antioxidants to prevent the formation of cancers. (5)

HPV Infection

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common, sexually transmitted virus, which infects about 40 million Americans today. There are about 200 strains of HPV, the majority of which are thought to be harmless. Most Americans will have some version of HPV in their lifetimes, and most immune systems will be able to fight off the virus.  Those who get specific strains, and lack the ability to fight those strains off, are the ones who develop cancer.

The two strains that are mainly associated with oral cancer are HPV16 and HPV18.  HPV is a double-stranded DNA virus that infects the epithelial cells of skin and mucosa.

It is likely that the changes in sexual behaviors of young adults over the last few decades, and which are continuing today, are increasing the spread of HPV, and the oncogenic versions of it.  You can get HPV by vaginal, anal, or oral sex.  Condoms can limit, but do not prevent HPV.  HPV significantly increases with multiple (especially more than four) sexual partners. (6)

How to Spot it

One of the real dangers of this cancer, is that in its early stages, it can go unnoticed. It can be painless, and little in the way of physical changes may be obvious. The good news is however, that your Physician or Dentist can, in many cases, see or feel the precursor tissue changes, or the actual cancer while it is still very small, or in its earliest stages.

It may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small ulcer which looks like a common canker sore. Because there are so many normal tissue changes that happen normally in your mouth, and some things as simple as a bite on the inside of your cheek may mimic the look of a dangerous tissue change. It is important to have any sore or discolored area of your mouth, which does not heal within 14 days, looked at by a professional. Other symptoms include; a lump or mass which can be felt inside the mouth or neck, pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing, any wart like masses, hoarseness which lasts for a long time, or any numbness in the oral/facial region. (7)

But like any cancer, even if you do not do these risk factors, there is still a possibility of getting it. 

The best way to detect oral cancer is to do self exams and to see your Dentist regularly.  The Dental Team is the forefront in prevention and detection as their main focus is your mouth!  Your Dentist and/or Hygienist will perform a visual and tactile screening at each appointment.  If they do not, please ask for one.  There are also additional screenings available, and they can tell you more about them during your appointment.

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No Insurance? No Problem!


Katie Moynihan, BS RDH

No Insurance? No Problem!

Just when you thought you couldn’t afford dental treatment because you do not have dental insurance, think again. We have you covered, and are here to help! Our offices offer an in-office savings plan for patients who do not carry insurance. This savings plan provides members preventative and diagnostic treatment at a discounted fee. Knowing how important preventative care is to keeping treatment costs low and your oral health high, we have designed our plan to reward you and your family for coming in for your regular check ups.

In-Office Savings Plan

Annual Membership Cost is paid each year by the 15th of the month during the month the patient first begins the plan with the office. This annual membership fee is due each year to remain a current savings plan member.

Annual Membership Cost

Single Member      $99/YR

Member +1            $165/YR

Member +2            $235/YR


New Patient Specials

18+ yrs – New Exam, Full Set of X-rays, Oral Cancer Exam and Routine Cleaning – $150

6-17 yrs – New Exam, X-rays, Child Cleaning, Fluoride Treatment and 2 Sealants – $150

1-6 yrs – New Exam, X-rays, Child Cleaning, and Fluoride Treatment – $100


Preventative and Diagnostic Treatments

Established Patient Exam $30 membership fee -vs- $59 full fee without insurance

Check-up X-rays  (7 films) $40 membership fee -vs- $100 full fee without insurance

Full Series or Panoramic X-ray $60 membership fee -vs- $140 full fee without insurance

Routine Cleaning (adult) $45 membership fee -vs- $102 full fee without insurance

Routine Cleaning (child) $30 membership fee -vs- $76 full fee without insurance

Fluoride Treatment $20 membership fee -vs- $47 full fee without insurance

Sealant (per tooth) $25 membership fee -vs- $45 full fee without insurance

*Periodontal Maintenance $70 membership fee -vs- $510 full fee without insurance


Restorative Treatment – tooth colored fillings, porcelain crowns, porcelain bridges, dentures, and partial dentures

First year on the plan = 20% discount off of Usual, Customary, Reasonable (UCR) Fees

Second year on the plan = 25% discount

Third year on the plan = 30% discount


Oral Surgery Treatment – extractions, implants, and bone grafts *Excludes Sedation

First year on the plan = 20% discount off of UCR Fees

Second year on the plan = 25% discount

Third year on the plan = 30% discount


Endodontic Treatment – root canals

First year on the plan = 20% discount off of UCR Fees

Second year on the plan = 25% discount

Third year on the plan = 30% discount


Periodontal Therapy – gum disease treatments *Excludes Periodontal Maintenance

First year on the plan = 20% discount off of UCR Fees

Second year on the plan = 25% discount

Third year on the plan = 30% discount


IV Sedation-

$450 – 90 minutes of sedation

$100 – 30 minutes following initial 90 minutes


Cosmetic Treatment – whitening, veneers, all porcelain crowns for front teeth, and Invisalign

10% discount off of UCR Fees


In-Office Savings Plan Disclaimer:

  • This plan cannot be combined with other office discounts such as prepayment discounts.
  • You must renew your plan the month of its anniversary to enjoy increases in % discounts for services year over year.
  • Every member on your plan must maintain the preventative care schedule of 2 exams, 1-2 sets of check up x-rays and recommended number of hygiene treatments indicated by your hygienist and dentist to maintain current % off of dental services.
  • Beyond the third year on the plan you will enjoy a 30% discount off services.  If hygiene appointments are missed or if the annual membership fee is not received the month due the % of discount resets to the 20%.
  • Payment for services including annual membership can be paid with cash or major credit card.  Outside financing with Care Credit can only be used on amount over $1000.
  • Payments are due at time of service unless arrangements are made prior to treatment being rendered.

If the cost of dental treatment is preventing you from scheduling an appointment with us, please think again. We are here to help you and provide you with all the resources you need. Our office happily accepts most insurance programs including but not limited to: Dental Dental, Cigna, Principal, Aetna, Guardian, Assurant, MetLife, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, and United Health Care. We also offer OAC (on approved credit) financing such as CareCredit. With CareCredit, you can pay for treatment and procedures right away and then make convenient monthly payments. For more information about CareCredit please visit: or visit our offices and we would be happy to help you!

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Oral Cancer Awareness


Becky Larson, RDH

Oral Cancer Awareness

It’s April again!  Which means Oral Cancer Awareness month.  I can’t even begin to tell you how critical it is to receive regular oral cancer screenings.  Your dentist and/or dental hygienist should perform a basic screening at your six month check-ups.  We also recommend having a more in depth oral cancer screening (such as the Velscope, Oral ID, or Identafi) annually.  These more in depth screenings use florescent or ultra violet lights that can detect signs of oral cancer much earlier.  The earlier cancer is caught, the sooner treatment can begin and the better the prognosis.

Oral cancer is any abnormal growth of cells in the oral cavity (mouth).  Abnormal cell growth can be benign (no cause for concern) or malignant (can be life-threatening).  The oral cavity consists of the lips, cheek lining, salivary glands, hard and soft palates, uvula, tongue, floor of the mouth (underneath the tongue), gums, and tonsils.  The tongue and the floor of the mouth are the most common areas for oral cancer to occur.  However, the cancer can spread to other areas of the oral cavity and/or other areas of the body.

Oral cancer can manifest itself in many ways including swellings, lumps or bumps, numbness, abnormal bleeding, white patches, red patches, speckled patch, sores that do not heal, sore throat, pain when chewing/speaking/etc., changes in voice, ear pain, and dramatic weight loss.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please visit your dentist or primary care physician.

Risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, alcohol use, sun exposure, having HPV (Human papillomavirus), and a history of having oral cancer previously.  Tobacco use is the reason for most oral cancers, especially in those individuals who have used tobacco for lengthy amounts of time.  The risk increases when tobacco users become heavy alcohol drinkers.  Three out of every four oral cancers occur in people who use alcohol, tobacco, or both.  The Human papillomavirus is mainly linked to oropharyngeal cancers.  Limiting sun exposure and the use of sun screen and lip balm can help reduce the risk.  Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women.  It is also important to note that more than 25% of oral cancers are found in individuals with no risk factors.

Everyone is at risk!  Make sure to visit your dentist and dental hygienist for regular oral cancer screenings.

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Orthodontic Retainers


Lindsay Olsen, RDH

Orthodontic Retainers

            You’ve been waiting for this day for over eighteen months; your braces are coming off today! Interestingly enough, one of the most important stages of your orthodontic treatment begins, the retainer phase.  Retainers are the only insurance policy orthodontia patients have to keep their smile straight, and bite perfect.

There are two types of orthodontic retainers:

  • Permanent (Fixed Bonded)
  • Removable

Permanent retainers cannot be removed. A thin wire is bonded on the tongue side of your lower front teeth (sometimes the upper teeth). This style retainer is great for individuals who will not remember to wear their removable retainers each night. Permanent retainers are not recommended for patients who have poor brushing and flossing habits at home. Permanent retainers require meticulous flossing (With a floss threader), and twice daily brushing in order to prevent plaque/tartar buildup from accumulating around the retainer.

Call your dentist, or orthodontist ASAP if you feel or notice your permanent retainer is broken, or distorted in any way.

There are two types of removable retainers: a Hawley style retainer, or an Essix style (Invisible) retainer. Removable retainers are popular among orthodontic patients because they can be removed, and cleaned by hand. These style retainers also do not get in the way during flossing, and brushing.

How to Care for Your Removable Retainer?

  • If you have an removable style retainer DO NOT soak it in boiling, or even extremely hot water, as it can easily melt, or become distorted. Also living in Arizona, store your retainer indoors. If it is left in your car during the summer months, it can melt, or become distorted.
  • If you are not wearing your retainer, keep it in its case, on a high shelf, away from pets. Dogs are attracted to smell/taste of human saliva. Your dog will chew, and destroy your retainer if they can get their paws on it.
  • DO NOT soak your retainer in mouthwash, as it will stain your retainer. Simply rinse with water, after each use, and gently brush with your soft toothbrush (NO TOOTHPASTE). Once a week, I disinfect my removable retainers. Simply place your retainers in warm water, with a denture or orthodontic cleaning tablet for 15-20 minutes, and then rinse under water. I personally use Retainer Brite tablets (Purchased from


How Often, or How Long Do I Need to Wear My Removable Retainers?

It is recommended to wear your removable retainers, every night, for the rest of your life to retain your straight teeth.

You are welcome to bring in your removable style retainers with you to each preventative cleaning appointment. They can be cleaned in the ultrasonic, and then the Dr. can examine the fit. If you have any additional questions about your retainers, please contact your dental office!

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