Types of oral cancer affecting the mouth and what can a prosthodontist do to help?

Types of oral cancer affecting the mouth and what can a prosthodontist do to help?

Oral cancer accounts for roughly 3% of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States. That is roughly about 53,000 new cases each year. Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women. People older than 45 have an increased risk for oral cancer, although this type can develop in people of any age.

Factors that can lead to oral cancer

  • Tobacco- either smoked or chewed
  • Alcohol
  • Betel Quid
  • Ultraviolet light- common among people working outside
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • HPV- human papillomavirus infection
  • Lichen planus patients have a higher risk
  • Immunosuppression

Areas that can be affected

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue- base, body, or sides anywhere
  • The inner lining of cheeks
  • The roof of mouth/palate
  • Floor of mouth


  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  • Red or white patch inside the mouth that can’t be rubbed off
  • Unexplained looseness in teeth or movement
  • Abnormal growth of tissue or lump inside the mouth
  • Pain and abnormal sensation in the jaw
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Pain in ear, throat, or adjoining structures


  • Stop using tobacco products, or better, don’t even start
  • Avoid excessive alcohol use or drink in moderation
  • Prevent prolonged sun exposure or use protection against UV light
  • Healthy balanced diet
  • Avoid unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • See your dentist regularly

Role of Prosthodontist

After diagnosing oral cancer, the Prosthodontist works with a multidisciplinary team of specialists for the complete rehabilitation of patients.

Prosthodontists begin with pre-radiation screening, identifying any teeth that could cause problems in the future, and extracting them. The next step would be to restore key teeth, which will support any denture, obturator, or maxillofacial prosthesis post-radiation and surgery.

Various types of prostheses made include:

  • Radiation shield- worn during radiation therapy to protect normal tissue
  • Fluoride carriers- trays for patients with dry mouth from radiation and medications to prevent caries and strengthen remaining teeth
  • Surgical obturator – Covers roof of mouth after surgery to provide closure
  • Interim and definitive obturator- restores teeth and gums and closes the palate to aid in swallowing, chewing, and speaking.
  • There are many other types of prosthetics that can be made as needed, such as palatal lift prosthesis, palatal drop prosthesis, and mandibular resection prosthesis.

Prosthodontists will work with a team of anaplastologists and Oral and Maxillofacial surgeons to provide the foundation for various extraoral prostheses. 

These include but are not limited to ocular prosthesis, orbital prosthesis, auricular prosthesis, nasal prosthesis, etc.

Often these prostheses are combined with high-quality dental care to restore form, function, esthetics, and quality of life to the patient. A Prosthodontist will educate patients with counseling (what to expect), actual therapy needed for teeth and fabrication of prosthesis, dietary guidance, and oral hygiene/yearly maintenance after completion.

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