Oral Cancer: What You Need to KnowThe prevalence of oral cancer is high on a global level. Nearly 657,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

If not diagnosed early, oral cancer can be life-threatening. In this article, you will learn important information about oral cancer including the risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options.

About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer refers to the cancer of the lips, tongue, hard and soft palate, the floor of the mouth, throat, sinuses, and cheeks. The cancer is caused due to uncontrollable growth of cells that cause damage to the surrounding tissues.

Various risk factors have been identified for oral cancer apart from genetic predisposition.

Among other health complications, excessive use of alcohol and tobacco also increases the risk of oral cancer. Heavy and moderate drinkers are said to be three to nine times greater risk of developing alcohol content as compared to non-drinkers. Moreover, individuals who chew or snuff tobacco are at about four times greater risk of developing oral cancer as compared to non-users.

Studies have also found that long-term exposure to sun leads to increased risk of lip cancer.  Sexually active individuals are also at risk of developing oral cancer. STIs such as herpes, HPV, Syphilis, and gonorrhea can result in oral cancer.

Diagnosis of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can be diagnosed through physical inspection and imaging techniques. Some of the symptoms that indicate the presence of oral cancer include.

  • Prolonged tongue pain
  • Bleeding sores that don’t heal
  • Difficulty or pain in swallowing or chewing
  • A chronic sore throat
  • Lump or growth of the skin of the mouth
  • Jaw stiffness or pain

FDA has approved different devices and techniques for carrying out a diagnosis. These include brush biopsy (cytology), tolonium chloride (tissue staining), light reflections, and fluorescence. These techniques are helpful in confirming the presence of oral cancer. The preferred method for detecting lesions is biopsy involving tissue sampling.

Doctors also use imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to know about the level of cancer.  However, these techniques don’t replace biopsy for investigating the suspicious tissue.

Treatment of Oral Cancer

The treatment of oral cancer is formulated depending on the stage of cancer. The treatment plan generally consists of chemotherapy or radiation. Sometimes surgery is recommended for the treatment of cancer.

Typically, the treatment plan involves different medical specialists such as dental hygienists, dentists, surgeons, and oncologists.  All treatment plan emphasizes the protection of the teeth from decay, gum infections, and mouth dryness.

In conclusion, oral cancer is one of the most prevalent conditions,particularly in the developed world. It’s important to take precaution to avoid the risk of developing cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual oral check-up for individuals aged 40 and above and every three years for individuals aged between 20 and 29 years. A regular checkup will help in early diagnosis of oral cancer. This will increase the chances of recovery from oral cancer.

If you have any questions regarding Oral Cancer, or any other Oral Health topics, give The Gentle Dentist a call.  We are located in Shelby Township, MI and can be reached at (586) 247-3500!



Categories: Oral Cancer

Youtube:  Oral Cancer and Its Effects on Your Mouth

Oral Cancer and Its Effects on Your Mouth

Hi, this is Dr. Antolak at thegentledentist.com in Shelby Township, Michigan. What I’d like to discuss today is oral cancer and cancer in general, and its effect it has on the mouth.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it’s obviously a horrible time usually for families dealing with this potential life ending illness. When that takes place, a lot of things have to be done and the oncologist that you go to, hopefully will be really privy and aware that during any radiation therapy that’s done or even chemotherapy, these are intended to kill off cells in the body, fast growing cells.  Cancer cells are obviously fast growing cells.

Fast growing cells are also hair cells or hair follicles, and saliva glands that are in your mouth. When chemotherapy and radiation therapy takes place, that’s why people go without hair but also their mouth dries out.

So what are the implications of having this take place for the patient? I believe what’s very important is that when someone is diagnosed with cancer that they really get a thorough dental examination. Hopefully your oncologist will recommend a dentist to you and what’s important is getting this done in a very quick fashion. The reason why that is, is because they want a get on to that therapy pretty soon.

Well, if the mouth is not taken care of, if there are bad teeth in the mouth that seem to be problematic, because the fact that when salivary glands are knocked out it causes so many problems. You have a significant potential for getting cavities. Is if a tooth is as bad as it is, that cavity will just get worse. The problem is you can’t just take a tooth out when someone is on chemotherapy. If you do, because the immune system is really suppressed, there is a risk of having many, many potential complications from that.

The best way of dealing with this is taking care of all these urgent needs right away while the body has the ability to heal itself before it gets struck with all this chemotherapy and these very, very difficult days that would lay ahead.

Dry mouth because of the lack of saliva is another issue that takes place. But also there are many other things that can take place. For example, I put this brochure together. Increased chance of cavity, loss of taste, pain in your mouth. Of course, infections are much more prevalent.

So if you have gum disease, there might be an election to have teeth removed just so that, that area’s sealed off, and there’s no infection to the jawbone. You get jaw stiffness from this, and you get changes in your bone.

Sometimes when medications are given, for example, bisphosphonates, which are medications used for certain types of cancer, bone cancer. Once that takes place, the metabolism in the bone is altered, and therefore, once again, it’s difficult to manage patients who need to have any other additional

Oral Cancer and Its Effects on Your Mouth

So if there’s questions about that you can feel free to call me but I really recommend talking to your oncologist or your nurses who treat you or your loved one who will be going in for this care to make sure that there’s no potential of having a problem. If you’re not really current with your dental care please get in to see us or get in to see your own dentist if you have one because that itself could be a really challenging time for you.

If you have questions about oral cancer and its effects on your mouth, my phone number is (586) 247-3500. The website is thegentledentist.com. Our dental office is in Shelby Township, Michigan. Thank you, and God bless.



Categories: Oral Cancer

Hi. My name is Dr. Robert Antolak, the owner and president of  The Gentle Dentist located out in Shelby Township, Michigan. What’s a really important topic is for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer, especially head and neck cancer, is something that is fairly prevalent. And one very important facet of when someone has been diagnosed with cancer and they’re supposed to be having either radiation therapy or  chemotherapy is to go on and have their dental care taken care of right away, before they start. Especially when they start radiation therapy. Especially if it’s above the head and neck area.

The reason why it’s important to have your dentistry done before you go in for therapy is that the body, because of the fact that radiation is going to end up slowing and even killing off all the salivary glands and the that produce saliva. Saliva is important to keep your mouth hydrated and wet, which prevents cavities. It’s also very important because when you do that, you can get a ton of pain in your mouth. And an infection that’s very very common for people who have had oral cancer, and who’ve had treatment with that. So,  if a tooth has to come out, because it’s a bad tooth, we need to extract it before starting into therapy. Because once they start the therapy, your body’s immunity is really suppressed. You don’t have that ability to, to heal like you can. So, if teeth ever have to be removed afterwards, it’s a nightmare, it’s very difficult and it’s pretty risky, for having much more signifigant problems after that. So, when we do that we can, we can either extract your teeth, and the beauty of our office is we do, I do all phases of dentistry. So we can extract the necessary teeth if you need fillings on teeth we can do that, if we need to clean them we want to get that done very quickly after you’ve been diagnosed and then after that point on you can get your therapy doneand then work it out so that things are much more manageable at that point.

There’s a couple things that are important to know to aid in the problems with the dry mouth even afterwords is to use sugarless products, drink plenty of water, make sure you use fluorides that help to refluoridate your teeth, and avoid soda pop. That’s really a bad thing, that your mouth is dry. So you have to do these necessary things.

The key is to get in before you start your chemotherapy or radiation therapy. So our dental office is located in Shelby Township, Michigan and our phone number is 586-247-3500 and our website is thegentledentist.com. Thank you and have a blessed day.



Categories: Oral Cancer

I have recently seen with friends of mine or patients who have become smoke free after  years of smoking and I see the positive effects this process has had on their lives.  I want to pass on some information for the Shelby Twp, Macomb county area people who read this blog and who are tired of the control that smoking has on your life.  To quit it usually takes a plan and commitment to stick to the plan for the changes to take place with any consistency. For those who smoke or live with a smoker I would like to expand on living a smoke free life in this month’s article. 
According to the American Heart Association, about 46 million American adults smoke cigarettes.  This breaks down to 23 percent of adult men and 19 percent of adult women. Most smokers are either actively trying to quit or want to quit. Since 1965, more than 49 percent of all adults who have ever smoked have quit. Leading a smoke free life: Smoking and using spit tobacco are  habits that significantly affect one’s health and well being. 
Why Quit?:
Cigarette smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Smoking is also responsible for most cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, and bladder.
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemical agents, including over 60 substances that are known to cause cancer.
According to the Surgeon General:  Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes are the six major independent risk factors for coronary heart disease that you can modify or control.

There are many oral conditions that are negatively affected by tobacco use which include:  periodontal disease, healing with dental implants, oral surgery and high risk for oral cancer.
The Good News:

  • After one year off cigarettes, the excess risk of coronary heart disease caused by smoking is reduced by half. After 15 years of abstinence, the risk is similar to that for people who’ve never smoked. 
  • In 5 to 15 years, the risk of stroke for ex-smokers returns to the level of those who’ve never smoked.
  • Male smokers who quit between ages 35 to 39 add an average of 5 years to their lives. Female quitters in this age group add 3 years. Men and women who quit at ages 65 to 69 increase their life expectancy by 1 year.

The Plan:
In any method used to be smoke free the person really needs to want to quit.  The motivation needs to come from within  rather than from an outside source such as a  spouse.  It needs to be done for yourself and as a result of your effort others will benefit. 

Both acupuncture and hypnotism can effective non-drug methods used to be tobacco free.  There is little scientific evidence that shows these methods are more effective than the use of pharmaceuticals.  For those patients who desire a more holistic approach these methods may be for you.

There are a number of pharmaceutical approaches used for a smoking cessation program.  These include nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum or the patch, the use of zyban, an antidepressant, and a  smoking cessation aide called Chantix. I have current patients who have used Chantix with remarkable results.  According to Jonathan Foulds, the director of the Tobacco Independence Program, Chantix appears to target the nicotine receptors in the brain that are involved in producing the rewarding effects from smoking. Chantix is believed to work via two mechanisms:

1. Chantix binds to nicotine receptors and blocks them so that nicotine can no longer activate those receptors (an effect that pharmacologists sometimes call an antagonist effect). This means that when someone is trying to quit and they lapse and smoke a cigarette, they probably won,t get much satisfaction from smoking it, and will be less likely to smoke another. The take-home message for patients is that it still makes sense to select a target quit-date (day eight) and to try to quit smoking completely on that day. However, if you don’t immediately quit don’t give up on yourself or on the medicines. The evidence suggests that if you keep trying you will likely achieve abstinence, and that Chantix improves your chance s, so long as you keep trying and keep taking the medicine. On the other hand, it is important to be clear that the aim of the game is to quit completely, and it is better in the long run to throw away the cigarettes and get on with it.

 It is exciting for us to team up with those who want to get control of their lives and finally be smoke free.  Give us a call at (586) 247-3500 or email me at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com for more information on this or previous articles. Please submit questions you may have about dental related topics to the same address on the internet. If you would like to write us, out address is 15055 22 Mile #2,  Shelby Twp.  MI 48315.

Dr. Robert Antolak practices implant, cosmetic and general dentistry in a relaxed “homey” environment where you are  made to feel like family. 

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation Close to 36,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 36,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma).

It is obvious that it is a serious problem and one that can be treated more successfully if it is treated at an early enough stage.  Early diagnosis is critical in the success but these cancers aren’t painful in the early stages.  When they get symptomatic when the patient can notice them they have usually metastasised to the neck or lymph nodes.  Your semiannual trip to the dentist is therefore critical since we do an oral cancer exam each time you are examined by Dr. Antolak. 

Oral cancers are mostly found at the side and under the tongue.  They usually appear as a red or white patch which is usually asymptomatic.  If there is any sign of this a brush biopsy or biopsy can be taken which will determine if there is pathology.

Rapid and aggressive treatment is important including surgery to remove the involved area, radiation and chemo therapies.  Radiation and chemotherapy kills off fast replicating cells.  Cancer cells, saliva producing cells, hair follicles, and any other fast growing cells are killed off by the chemotherapy.  Radiation therapy has an even more focused kill so if the saliva glands are in the path of radiation there is a significant reduction in the saliva.  Since saliva provides moisture and natural protection against gum disease and cavities the mouth is prone to more decay.  In addition the bone is prone to infection because the bone cells have a reduced capacity of healing. 

It is critical to seek dental care immediately to remove and fill any teeth that could have problems after the cancer treatment is started.  Dentures will have to be remade or relined to improve the fit.  A poorly fitting denture can create ulcers in the mouth which will be difficult to heal after radiation therapy is completed.

 One of my recent cancer-surviving patients told me that there was not been enough emphasis on the long term effects of radiation treatment on the teeth after the cancer treatment is done.  She wanted it to be known to others how fast dental decay can occur once the saliva glands are irradiated.

If you have questions or need to know what your next step should be please email Dr. Antolak at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com or call (586)247-3500.

Please remember our Candy Buy Back which takes place on November 2.  We will be paying children $1.00 per pound of candy they turn in.  The candy will be distributed to children in Haiti, Detroit and to the Men and Women in uniform  serving our country overseas.

The effects of cancer treatment on the mouth can be quite severe!

Most people realize the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy which are hair loss and nausea, but 1 out of 3 people develop problems with the mouth during and even after treatment.  These complications such as dry mouth or life threatening infections may interfere with cancer treatment or diminish the quality of living and eating. It is therefore important to have a qualified dentist as part of the oncology team who can manage and prep the patient’s mouth in anticipation of these complications.  This preoperative care for the cancer treatment is a vital part in a comprehensive approach to overall patient comfort and satisfaction.

Cancer treatment kills fast growing cells and saliva producing cells are one of the fast growing types.  As a result, cancer patients can have extremely dry mouths eliminating the lubrication, re-mineralization, and healing enzyme properties of saliva.

Dental cavities, infection of the soft tissues, periodontal disease and other dental diseases are exacerbated and made worse when saliva is either reduced or eliminated.  Therefore it is critical to involve your qualified dentist to treat decay with fillings, treat periodontal disease, extract hopeless teeth and either remake or reline poorly fitting dentures.

If at all possible your first dental visit should be at least 1 month before cancer treatment begins to give the treating dentist enough time to complete treatment.  Once the cancer treatment begins it is too late to have the dental work done because the bodies healing capacity and ability to fight off infections is greatly reduced if not stopped.

Since the mouth is full of disease causing bacteria any potential dental problem that can be foreseen should be treated immediately with enough time to heal completely (around 14 days) before cancer treatment is started.  Open wounds, infected teeth and the like can be seeds to serious problems.  Any elective oral surgery such as implant placement should be postponed until after cancer treatment is completed.  Soft plastic trays can be used to hold fluoride to prevent tooth decay.  These are to be used during the night to re-mineralize the teeth.

The diagnosis of cancer is devastating for everyone involved and there are both emotional and physical aspects that must be dealt with right away.  Involving the dentist as part of your care isn’t usually considered, but is critical.  Since time is of the essence, being told to wait a week for a dental appointment isn’t acceptable to me.  If your dentist isn’t willing to either alter his/her schedule or come in on their day off you may want to contact our office for an immediate appointment.  For more information on what a patient should do before, during and after cancer treatment you can call our office at (586) 247-3500 for a free reprinted brochure from the National Institute of Health.  You can also visit their website at Http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/cancertreatment

Even if you have questions about this topic or if you or a loved one is to be starting cancer therapy you can call me or visit the office to discuss your questions.

If you are involved with a cancer support group and would like to have me speak to them about oral care before, during and after cancer therapy you can email me at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com.

I am also available to talk with support groups or even patients who are about to begin cancer treatment.

Dr. Antolak enrolled in an advanced course with international speaker from Columbia University Dr. Kristos to continue his understanding of the latest technology in regards to using Cone Beam Technology and its relationship to human anatomy.  He now has the ability to look at the jaws and entire head from a 3 dimensional position and to rotate around with the computer.  Topics covered were head and neck anatomy seen on these high tech digital images.  This not only benefits this base of knowledge, but those patients who have the need for the cone beam CT Scan technology.  The diagnosis of tumors, dental diseases, lesions and normal anatomy.  He also had a great review of Oral Pathology so you can be assured of a significantly accurate treatment when you become a patient of the office.

This sensitive technology gives him the chance to diagnosis life threatening diseases like hardening and calcifing of the arteries, tumors, cancer.  The most common reason for these computerized scans is to gain information for implant surgical placement and sinus augmentation surgery.  Because the scans are so accurate these surgeries become much more predictable.   Normal panoramic xrays only show a flat image and have built in inaccuracies in maginfication.

This article is from the Academy of General Dentistry newsletter that I get and thought it was valuable for men.

Now to answer the question—-Men are less likely than women to take care of their physical health and, according to surveys and studies, their oral health is equally ignored. Good oral health recently has been linked with longevity. Yet, one of the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups is just being male. Men are less likely than women to seek preventive dental care and often neglect their oral health for years, visiting a dentist only when a problem arises. When it comes to oral health, statistics show that the average man brushes his teeth 1.9 times a day and will lose 5.4 teeth by age 72. If he smokes, he can plan on losing 12 teeth by age 72. Men are also more likely to develop oral and throat cancer and periodontal (gum) disease 

Why is periodontal disease a problem?


Periodontal disease is a result of plaque, which hardens into a rough, porous substance called tartar. The acids produced and released by bacteria found in tartar irritate gums. These acids cause the breakdown of fibers that anchor the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more bacteria. Researchers have found a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. See your dentist if you have any of these symptoms:


  • Bleeding gums during brushing
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose or separating teeth


Do you take medications?


Since men are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, they also are more likely to be on medications that can cause dry mouth. If you take medication for the heart or blood pressure, or if you take antidepressants, your salivary flow could be inhibited, increasing the risk for cavities. Saliva helps to reduce the cavity-causing bacteria found in your mouth.


Do you use tobacco?


If you smoke or chew, you have a greater risk for gum disease and oral cancer. Men are affected twice as often as women, and 95 percent of oral cancers occur in those over 40 years of age.


The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, soft palate tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery and even death. More than 8,000 people die each year from oral and pharyngeal diseases. If you use tobacco, it is important to see a dentist frequently for cleanings and to ensure your mouth remains healthy. Your general dentist can perform a thorough screening for oral cancer.


Do you play sports?


If you participate in sports, you have a greater potential for trauma to your mouth and teeth. If you play contact sports, such as football, soccer, basketball and even baseball, it is important to use a mouthguard, which is a flexible appliance made of plastic that protects teeth from trauma. If you ride bicycles or motorcycles, wear a helmet.


Taking care of your teeth


To take better care of your oral health, it is important to floss daily, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily and visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings. Here are some tips to better dental health:


  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reach every surface of each tooth. If the bristles on your toothbrush are bent or frayed, buy a new one.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or after you’ve been sick.
  • Choose a toothpaste with fluoride. This can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent.
  • Brush properly. To clean the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion using short, gentle strokes. To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle strokes over each tooth and its surrounding gum tissue. Spend at least three minutes brushing.
  • Floss properly. Gently insert floss between teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or snap it into place. Curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and then the other.

Dr. Antolak treats his dental patients in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where you are treated like a guest in the home.  His motto is to “relax while we take care of your smile”. He specializes in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry and general dentistry using sedation dentistry if necessary for his high fear patients. He has been treating patients for the past 21 years and is located in Shelby Township, Macomb county Michigan


Oral Cancer – Symptoms, Risks and Prevention

Each year, cancer of the mouth (oral cancer) develops in 30,000 people in the United States and causes 8,000 deaths, mostly in people older than 50.(That is almost 1 person per hour). It is the sixth most prevalent cancer found in the United States with a five year survival rate of only 50%. This death rate is higher than cervical or melanoma cancers, yet there is very little attention given to it by the media. Combinations of the lack of awareness, infrequent dental visits and/or lack of a system for early detection by the health care professional contribute to the relatively morbidity rate. When you visit your dentist or physician are they checking for this deadly disease?

Because early detection vastly improves the likelihood of cure, screening for oral cancer should be an integral part of medical and dental examinations. Cancerous growths less than ½ inch across (about 1¼ centimeters) usually can be cured. Unfortunately, most oral cancers are not diagnosed until they are larger and have spread to the lymph nodes under the jaw and in the neck. Because of delayed detection, 25% of oral cancers are fatal.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

A hereditary factor, although not yet well understood, makes certain people more susceptible to developing oral cancer. The two greatest controllable risk factors for developing oral cancer are tobacco and alcohol use. Tobacco use—including smoking cigarettes (particularly more than 2 packs per day), cigars, or pipes; chewing tobacco; and dipping snuff—accounts for 80 to 90% of all oral cancers. Cigars and cigarettes are equally dangerous as risk factors in the development of oral cancer, followed in descending order by chewing tobacco and pipe smoking.
Chronic or heavy alcohol use (particularly more than 6 drinks per day) increases the risk of oral cancer. The combination of tobacco and alcohol is more likely to cause cancer than either one alone

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancers are usually painless for a considerable length of time but eventually do cause pain. Pain usually starts when the cancer erodes into nearby nerves. When pain from cancer of the tongue or roof of the mouth begins, it usually occurs with swallowing, as with a sore throat.
The early growth of salivary gland tumors may or may not be painful. When these tumors do become painful, the pain may be worsened by food, which stimulates the secretion of saliva. Cancer of the jawbone often causes pain and a numb or pins-and-needles sensation (paresthesia), somewhat like the feeling of a dental anesthetic wearing off. Cancer of the lip or cheek may first become painful when the enlarged tissue is inadvertently bitten.

Preventing Oral Cancer

Diligent, routine examination of the mouth is the best strategy for finding cancerous and noncancerous growths. Avoiding excessive alcohol and tobacco use can greatly reduce the risk of most oral cancers. Smoothing rough edges from broken teeth or fillings is another preventive measure.
Because this is a topic rarely discussed I thought the information would be of value to the readership. Most of the above information comes from the Merek manual. As advised, make sure your dentist is checking your mouth for oral cancer and if they don’t ask them why not? If you have any question or concerns I would be happy to perform a complimentary cancer check for you.

Oral Cancer – Symptoms, Risks and Prevention

Please submit your questions to Dr. Antolak by: email- DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.com, calling us at (586)247-3500, fax-(586)247-1211 or by writing us at 15055 22 Mile #2, Shelby Twp. MI 48315.



Categories: Oral Cancer

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