Surgery Following Oral Cancer

Most oral cancer cases require some form of surgery before radioactive treatment may be administered. This primary surgery may involve the removal of a portion of the tongue, the inner part of the cheek, the mouth floor or, in particularly advanced scenarios, a portion of the mandible (lower jaw).

Reconstructive Surgery After Cancer Removal

Reconstructive oral surgeons work to restore the areas that are in need of repair after primary surgery has been performed and the cancerous cells have been eradicated. This is done in a variety of ways and depends on the specific type of primary surgery executed, but usually includes the use of one or more of the following:

  • Flaps of tissue (synthetic, donor or from patient)
  • Bone grafts
  • Metal or plastic prosthetics

Benefits of Reconstructive Surgery Following Oral Cancer

Life after cancer is difficult enough for every survivor without having to face difficulty speaking and chewing. Oral cancer patients often find, after surgery and recovery, that they are unable to speak, chew, swallow or breathe as well as they could before their procedure. Reconstructive oral surgery makes all of these things possible again, as well as gives many patients a sense of self-confidence that may have been lost due to disfiguring cancerous tumors or to primary surgeries.

Soft Tissue Transfer

When a patient’s tongue, gums or cheeks require reconstruction to any degree, a soft tissue transfer may be necessary. A microvascular tissue transfer involves the harvesting of soft tissue and attached blood vessels from a remote location on the patient’s body, such as the leg or chest. The tissue is attached at the site of the surgery, where it gradually assimilates into its surroundings, thereby allowing the patient to eventually chew and speak more comfortably and normally.

Bone Transfer

In advanced cases of oral cancer, a portion of the mandible may have to be removed. In this case, a bone graftmay be necessary if, for any reason, a prosthetic piece is not preferred by patient or surgeon. The bone graft and microvascular tissue transfer are performed in a similar manner, though in the case of the graft, the bone assimilates and develops more slowly than does the tissue.

Dental Implants

Depending on the nature of the oral cancer and the primary surgery that followed, dental implants may be necessary in order to replace lost teeth after the cancer has been completely removed. Even a few missing teeth may greatly affect the patient’s ability to chew and speak properly, and a great number of missing teeth may potentially lead to psychological distress and self-image issues.

Dental rehabilitation should be taken as seriously by oral cancer patients as is reconstructive surgery, as both play crucial roles in overall health and well being. Dental implants look, perform and feel exactly like natural teeth and are permanent replacements that are anchored directly into the jaw bone. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will evaluate your case to determine the type of prosthesis that is right for you.

Face and Jaw Surgery Center serves all of North Dakota and North West Minnesota including Moorhead, MN and East Grand Forks, MN

Bismarck, ND office

Fargo, ND office

GrandForksND office

Minot, ND office