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Oral Cancer – Sometimes A Portion of the Mouth is Removed – What Then?

When it comes to complex cases like this – thank goodness for dentists, oral surgeons and prosthodontists!

Palate and upper posterior teeth have been removed due to cancer.

Palate and upper posterior teeth have been removed due to cancer.

Sometimes cancer invades your mouth and portions of your mouth are removed.  Than what?

A custom made appliance replaces teeth and the palate. Eating and talking are once again comfortable!

A custom made appliance replaces teeth and the palate. Eating and talking are once again comfortable!

Thank goodness there are options!

Oral cancer can be devastating and life changing.  In previous blogs we have talked about how to correctly complete a self-exam for oral cancer.  If it is caught later, the cancer could progress to a point that portions of the hard and soft tissues are removed and this may complicate a patient’s ability to eat, drink, and speak – all the things we take for granted when we have healthy mouthes – let alone that patient’s self esteem.Oral surgeons, dentists, periodontists and prosthodontists can work together to help get back most of the function that was lost due to oral cancer and the surgeries to correct this. We can help patients lead a normal life again!

Tissue side of the obturator

Tissue side of the obturator

Most of us take for granted the ability to swallow and to speak. There is a very close association between our oral cavity and the sinus passages.  If the roof of the mouth or palate is removed, the barrier between our nasal passages and our mouth is eliminated. The ability to create normal sounding speech is lost when the sinus cavities are open to the mouth. Swallowing works best when you can create a seal between the tongue and the palate. Plus, who wants food in their nose or nose ‘fluids’ in their mouth!  Many words are formed when your tongue, teeth and cheeks work together to compress air in various areas within your mouth.  This becomes very difficult when there is an unsealed opening into the sinuses.

Prosthodontists or general dentists can help alleviate these problems by creating a custom fitted, appliance known as an obturator to help seal off the nasal passages.  The appliance or obturator takes the place of the missing portions of the palate and tissues that have been eliminated or surgically removed. Impressions are made of the oral cavity (a necessary but not particularly pleasant procedure) to create the custom appliance or obturator.  Usually the obturator will be anchored to the remaining teeth to allow it to feel stable. Sometimes implants or even magnets are also used to help hold the obturator in place.

Sinus areas are covered and protected when the obturator is in place. The patient can enunciate much better also!

Sinus areas are covered and protected when the obturator is in place. The patient can enunciate much better also!

If you would like more information, our office would be happy to help! Our office is located in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Our phone number is (970) 242-3635.  Please visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/juliegillisddspc) or call us if you have any questions or concerns.  You can also email our office at jmgdds@qwestoffice.net for further information.
This information shared with you by Julie Gillis, DDS PC .  We feel that your dental health is the top priority, and if we can make your smile more attractive while improving your health that is wonderful! Dr. Gillis practices restorative and cosmetic dentistry including porcelain veneers, tooth whitening, implants, crowns, bridges and periodontal care.  Our office website is www.juliegillisds.com.  For further information, please contact us at (970) 242-3635.

Yours for better health,

Julie Gillis, DDS,

“Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health”