Monday, July 14, 2008
Medical Reports: Light the Way
Dentists aren't just looking for cavities anymore. They have a new device to detect oral cancer. Seven's Richard Lemus shows us how a glow stick is helping Light the Way.
WSVN -- For Andrew Russo, a trip to the dentist usually means a good cleaning and, at worst, the shrill of the drill.
Andrew Russo: "Get my teeth cleaned and have some checkups and make sure there's nothing going on in my mouth that shouldn't be going on."
But, at this check-up, his dentist wasn't just looking for cavities or gum disease. He was also checking for oral cancer.
Dr. David Zionts, dentist: "If you go into a doctor's office, and they say you need a pap smear or mammogram, you do it. If you come to the dentist's office, and you want to avoid oral cancer, this is the thing to do."
Oral cancer can be hard to detect. It usually hides on the floor of the mouth or on the sides of the tongue.
Anyone can get it, but certain things do put you at higher risk.
Dr. David Zionts: "If you're over the age of 40, if you're a smoker, if you're a drinker. Those are all factors for increased risk for oral cancer."
In the past, all dentists could do was look into your mouth and search for lesions.
Now they have what's called Vizilite, a glow stick that lights up suspicious spots.
Dr. David Zionts: "Vizilite is a tool where we can actually look deeper than eye level, and it will actually reflect a certain color, in this case white, and we can see changes earlier than we could with the naked eye."
The exam only takes minutes, as dentists watch for white spots that could indicate cancer.
Patients say the worst part is the liquid you have to swish around your mouth before the exam.
Andrew Russo: "It tasted like vinaigrette on a salad, raspberry vinaigrette. That was the taste. Other than swishing it around for a minute, which seemed like a lifetime, it wasn't bad at all."
If doctors do find something suspect treatment can start before it's too late.
Dr. David Zionts: "It can save your life. If you catch oral cancer early enough, it's much easier to treat, and the likelihood that you survive it is much, much higher."
For Andrew, it was good news.
Andrew Russo: "He did a full search, the tongue, behind my gums and things of that nature, and he didn't find anything, and that's good to hear."
And that's an even better feeling than leaving with clean teeth.
Andrew Russo: "At least I can walk out of here knowing I'm totally clean and cancer free."
Dentists suggest getting a Vizilite check once a year.
Some insurance do pay for it but most don't. Expect to pay about $75.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Dr. David Zionts, Dentist
Southeast Florida Dental Group
12900 NE 17 Ave., Suite 500
North Miami, FL 33181