The Case for Adjunctive Oral Cancer Screening Devices
When a survey indicated that only 14% of adults said they had ever had an oral cancer screening, I was not surprised. After all, whenever I grab a patient?s tongue with gauze for the first time, their reaction almost always makes it clear that they have never experienced this before. Clearly, dental practices need to more consistently perform conventional ?white light? exams. However, to increase their odds of discovering cancerous and precancerous lesions, I believe they should also consider the use of adjunctive oral cancer detection devices.
One of the most popular adjunctive technologies is the VELscope system, which uses fluorescent visualization technology that has been used in over 4.5 million oral cancer exams and is supported by over $50 million in research. The BC Cancer Agency and LED Dental collaborated to apply the technology to oral mucosal tissue. When excited by the VELscope?s specific wavelength, unhealthy tissue has an abnormal, typically dark pattern that is readily distinguishable from the normal green fluorescence pattern of healthy tissue. The VELscope is the first device cleared by the Food & Drug Administration to help detect cancerous and precancerous lesions that may not be apparent to the naked eye.
An Indispensable Tool
The need for adjunctive screening devices is often debated within the dental community, much as was the case when digital radiography was introduced. Even though patients were asking about it, I hesitated to bring digital radiography into my practice because of the expense. Eventually, it dawned on me that I could ask my patients to help absorb the cost of this technology, so I decided to make the investment. I have never looked back, and neither has my staff. In fact, just out of curiosity, I recently asked my staff how they would feel about going back to film. They looked at me like children who were about to have their favorite stuffed animal taken away.
The situation with adjunctive screening devices is very similar. Patients are not only asking to be examined with these devices, they are usually willing to pay extra for the exam. Moreover, your staff will get hooked on these exams, as I recently learned when I brought one of my VELscope devices to a study club and forgot to return it to the office the next morning. When one of my hygienists stormed into my office asking, ?Where?s my VELscope,? I knew that she understood and believed in the importance of the service we are providing to our patients. And from the look on her face, I also knew I needed to drive home to retrieve ?her? device immediately!
Technology that Makes Sense
Dental professionals are continually bombarded with new technologies, and it can be difficult identifying which ones make sense. Fortunately, there are a few that end up making so much sense for you, your staff, and your patients that you find yourself asking, ?Why did I wait so long?? In my experience, oral cancer screening devices belong in that exclusive category.