If your dentist is not using the Velscope technology as part of your oral cancer screening then he or she could be missing cancerous or precancerous lesions that are not visible to the naked eye under traditional white light. Mortality rates associated with oral cancer have remained unchanged for over 30 years, partly due to the limitations of white light examination of the oral mucosa (mucosa is the specialized tissue that is inside your mouth; the word mucosa comes from mucous which is a slimy substance secreted by glands for lubrication, protection, etc. such as saliva in this case).This has created a dire need for an improved oral mucosal screening procedure that would make it possible for clinicians to accurately identify tissue changes at and below the surface before they become apparent under white light.
The Velscope is a revolutionary handheld device that provides dentists and hygienists with an easy to use adjunctive mucosal examination system for the early detection of abnormal tissue. It is based on the direct visualization of tissue fluorescence and the changes in fluorescence that occur when abnormalities are present. Fluorescence is an optical phenomenon that is manifested as glowing light. We observe it every day in the energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs that are used in many households and glow sticks that are often used in emergency situations.
The Velscope hand piece emits a safe blue light into the oral cavity that excites the tissue from the surface of the mucosa through to the deeper layers (where premalignant changes typically start) causing it to fluoresce. The clinician is then able to immediately view the different fluorescence responses to help differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue. In fact, the Velscope is the only noninvasive adjunctive device clinically proven to help discover occult oral disease (occult in medicine means of a disease or process not accompanied by readily discernible signs). Typically healthy tissue appears as a bright apple green glow while suspicious regions are identified by a loss of fluorescence, which thus appear dark.
In one or two minutes with no rinses or stains required a Velscope examination helps oral healthcare professionals assure their patients the standard of care for oral mucosal screenings has been utilized. The first step in any oral cancer exam would include the white light exam in which the dentist or hygienist looks for lesions in the oral cavity with the naked eye and uses palpation to feel for any lumps in the neck or face.
The second step would be the Velscope exam, which allows the clinician to immediately review the different fluorescence signatures from the oral tissue to help differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue, abnormal tissue typically appears as irregular dark areas and stands out against the otherwise normal green fluorescent pattern of surrounding healthy tissue.
This technology thus helps dental practitioners identify potentially dangerous growths that might have been missed with the naked eye and the exam takes only 2 to 3 minutes. If the clinician does detect anything of concern during the Velscope exam the next step would likely be a surgical biopsy. Only when the results of the biopsy are read by a pathologist can the condition of the tissue be diagnosed. In the worst case the diagnosis could be oral cancer, but in most cases diagnosis will be precancer or some other much less serious form of abnormality.
Cancer in the head and neck region is very difficult to treat and does not have a good prognosis, unless it is caught early. It is very difficult for a patient to see inside their own mouths to detect abnormalities. Unlike breast self exams or other changes that occur on the skin that can alert the patient that something could be wrong, oral cancer is generally never detected by the patient first. Early stages of oral cancer can be cured, but most are not detected early and by the time symptoms occur chances are the cancer may have already begun to spread. Of course we all know the risks factors for oral cancer such as the use of tobacco products and alcohol abuse, however 25% of patients who present with oral cancer have never smoked.
Ask your dentist to get a Velscope if he does not have already have one, and especially if you are in the high risk group. If you live in the San Antonio area you can see my husband Dr. Edward Camacho who uses the Velscope in his practice. He has been in practice for almost 30 years and specializes in cosmetic dentistry including veneers and Invisalign (invisible removable braces). In fact, our office is in the top 5% in the nation of Invisalign providers. He also does all phases of general dentistry and has patients in all age ranges. He is accepting new patients at this time. Be sure to ask for him by name when you schedule your appointment as there is more than one dentist at the office. More about Dental Marketing Services