The recent news of baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s passing due to mouth cancer landed hard on Dr. Saj Jivraj, prosthodontist and founder of the Anacapa Dental Art Institute. While Gwynn was an admired figure in Southern California, the news struck much closer to home for Dr. Jivraj, who has lost someone much more precious to him to mouth cancer – his mother.
“Oral cancer is a terrible thing,” Dr. Jivraj said. “It can destroy a person self-esteem and happiness before it takes their life.”
About 42,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with some form of oral cancer. More than one in three (36 percent) won’t live five years after their diagnosis.
“The best chance of catching the disease early is with regular visits to the dentist,” Dr. Jivraj said.
Oral cancer occurs on the lips, gums, throat, cheeks, tongue, roof of the mouth and floor of the mouth.
To see the early signs of oral cancer, Dr. Jivraj offers these seven tips:
1. Know the risk factors: male; 50 years old or older; smoke or drink; have oral human papillomavirus (HPV).
2. Sores that won’t heal.
3. White or red patches.
4. Tenderness or numbness in your mouth.
5. A lumpy or crusty spot in your mouth.
6. A hard time moving your tongue.
7. Changes in how your teeth fit together.
Dr. Jivraj wants anyone with even one of the signs to schedule a dental appointment.
“You must detect the disease early to increase your chances of defeating it,” he said.
Dr. Jivraj is an award-winning prosthodontist who specializes in implant, cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry. He is a former chairman of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry’s Fixed Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry section. He also is an international lecturer and has written more than two dozen articles on implant dentistry and restorative dentistry for the British Dental Association.
Dr. Jivraj received advanced prosthodontic training at the USC School of Dentistry. He is co-author of the textbook “Treatment Planning in Implant Dentistry,” which is used around the world. Dr. Jivraj is on the editorial board of the highly prestigious Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry, ad hoc reviewer for the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry and is associate clinical editor for Dental Teamwork magazine.