From the desk of Janet Coon, Dental Assistant Department Head:
There are not many secrets associated with going to the dentist. We all know the “drill”. But here’s a secret about something you may not know we are doing while you are having your treatment done. We aren’t looking at just your teeth, we are looking at you…well, at least your face, neck, and ears. Dental professionals are trained to do visual head, neck and oral cancer examinations while patients are in our chairs. We are looking for abnormalities such as raised lesions, discolored patches on the skin and evidence of precancerous concerns. Of course we want to treat, prevent, and educate patients about oral health issues of the teeth and gums, but we are truly as concerned about your total health. So when you are in the dental chair and you feel as though you are being inspected, well, you are!
I have had the personal experience of finding areas of concern on two patients, both men, both having raised scar-like lesions on their upper lips. They were both avid golfers and outdoorsmen. They reported that the “bumps” on their lips had been there for a few months and was only an inconvenience while shaving. Upon referral to dermatologists, both were diagnosed with basal cell carcinomas requiring invasive surgery and long-term healing. Head, neck, and oral cancers are three of the most serious issues dental professionals can actively watch for.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. As a lifelong dental professional, I would ask each of you to have an oral cancer screening done at your next dental appointment. They are as easy as having a flashlight illuminated in your mouth and in many cases are covered by insurance plans. Early detection is priceless and essential to the positive outcome of treatment. Cancers are no longer just found in patients that smoke or use other forms of tobacco. Cancer is not reserved for individuals that spend too much time out in the sun.
Unfortunately, oral cancer is on the rise and the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients are young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection to the HPV virus. So please, have a simple examination done and learn about risk factors associated with cancers of the head, neck and oral cavity. It truly may save your life!
For more information about our Dental Assistant program visit our website or give us a call at 918.610.0027.