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Oral Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives


While April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month, dentists and hygienists should be on the lookout for oral cancers all year long.

Oral Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives | Image Credit: © Netsay - stock.adobe.com

Oral Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives | Image Credit: © Netsay - stock.adobe.com

Earlier this month, we published an article taking a look at some recent Dental Products Report content related to oral cancer in recognition of April being National Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

You can read that full article click here: A Look Back at Some Important Oral Cancer Awareness Articles

Today, however, we’re going to flash back a full decade to share some highlights from the April 2014 issue of Dental Products Report when our “Be Aware…this month and every month” feature took a look at products, perspectives and people in an effort to raise awareness about oral cancer.

While some things have changed over the last 10 years, oral cancer awareness is as important today as ever. In the April 2014 article, we showcased some oral cancer devices that were available then [make sure to visit dentalproductsreport.com to check out some of the newer systems available], we heard from an oral cancer survivor, and a few clinicians shared the methods they use for oral cancer screening in their practices.

Here are some of the highlights from a decade ago, along with some updates:

  • Dr. Martin Jablow, Woodbridge, NJ, said, “In my office, I take the responsibility of screening for oral cancer among all new patients during their initial visits, and existing patients at their re-care appointments. The dental hygienist can also assist in screening for oral cancer. I feel that the greater the number of eyes looking for the earliest signs of oral cancer, the greater the chance that nothing will be missed. It’s the responsibility of the entire team to try and identify areas in the mouth that do not look normal. As mentioned earlier, I perform an oral cancer examination on all patients beginning in their mid to late teens. Since the face of oral cancer is changing due to human papillomavirus infection, we must be more vigilant with a younger demographic.”

Update: The ADA has since expanded its policy on oral cancer screening recommending that dentists and hygienists perform routine examinations for oral cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer for all dental patients. The inclusion of oropharyngeal cancer in these screening protocols is driven by the escalating numbers of diagnosed cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV).

A good source for up-to-date information on the topic is the The Oral Cancer Foundation (https://oralcancerfoundation.org). According to the foundation’s website, close to 58,500 Americans will be diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer this year, and it will cause over 12,250 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day.

  • Jennifer Rooney, RDH, BS, The Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry, North Oaks, MN, said, her practice decided to incorporate the fee for the oral cancer exam directly into its fee structure for other services already being performed during preventive visits, “We strongly believe this test to be a vital component in providing the best preventive service, ensuring that we have done everything in our professional ability to help confirm that there are no observed abnormal/precancerous or cancerous tissues present.”

[Editor’s Note: At the time of the publication of the original article, this Minnesota practice was using the StarDental Identifi oral cancer screening device, which is no longer available at this time. For information on screening devices currently available, including the VELscope Vx from LED Dental, and the OralID Oral Cancer Screening Device from Forward Science, visit dentalproductsreport.com].

  • In a Q&A with oral cancer survivor Joana Breckner, she described the role her dentist played in her cancer diagnosis which led to 3 surgeries for malignant tumors. Initially her dentist’s oral cancer screening was visual and manual and he noticed small white spots on the right side of her tongue. She believes the practice later added the VELscope Vx to assist with screenings on all dental patients.
    Her recommendation regarding oral cancer screenings included:
    “Ask your dentist and/or hygienist if they are performing an oral cancer screening on you and how they do this,” and she added, that patients should choose their dentist wisely. Since dentists are among the doctors people visit more regularly, dentists are often the first to see symptoms of many possible health problems [including oral cancer], she added.

The infographic (below) was included in the article 10 years ago. Some of the statistics have surely changed since then, but the importance of oral cancer awareness has not.

Oral Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives

Source: Dental Products Report

While April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and a great time for dental practices and their staff to remind patients how important screenings are, this topic should be top of mind every month of every year.

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