You may disagree, stating, well, Anastasia, we are using adjunctive screening technology such as Identifi, VELscope, ViziLite, Oral CDX, and OralRisk HPV more routinely than ever.
Let me share this: When I began speaking and writing on this topic about 8 years ago, 30,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Currently, those numbers are now at 40,000 per year, or 100 Americans per day, according to the Oral Councer Foundation.
Here are 2 solutions for you to integrate into your practice consistently even IF you do not have oral cancer screening technology:
- Discuss ALL of the risk factors for oral cancer with your team and patients. For example, since HPV is at least 25% risk for oral cancer, consider educating your patients on this. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, anyone who is engaging in sexual behavior should be screened for oral cancer annually. Today?s patient is curious and informed, whether it is from their family, friends, Internet sources, or you, the dental professional. Be ready to state the facts. Numbers don?t lie.
- Share the symptoms of oral cancer so your patients will recognize what is normal and what is not.
- Invest in patient education materials and check out websites or YouTube for everything from product information to survivor stories.
- Be aware of what information is online about oral cancer and our profession. Not all medical organizations agree about the benefits of an oral exam for oral cancer screening. For instance, the American Dental Association recommends all adults undergo periodic oral exams when they visit the dentist. The American Cancer Society recommends discussing oral cancer screening when you visit your dentist. But the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that there is insufficient evidence either for or against routine oral cancer screening in adults. The USPSTF also says that techniques other than the standard oral exam are being evaluated, but are still experimental.
- Sit down with your hygiene department and really go over the time allotted in appointments for using the technology mentioned above, who will use it, how you will market your service, determine how often, cost, and what your next course of action will be when discovering a tissue change or lesion. Keep in mind that someone should be responsible to contact patients that are edentulous for screenings based upon your selected protocol.
- Do your research on products and ask for CE hands on at your study clubs or recorded webinars that may be shown during your staff meetings. It is mainly through dentists and hygienists that the product will be best used, so a fit you both agree on will direct the success of your oral cancer screening integration.
Oral cancer is not a rare form of cancer. We have an opportunity to make a difference in our profession to help others. We cannot allow this perceived taboo topic to trump awareness and preventative measures for our patients' best oral health for their best life!
Anastasia challenges dental professionals to continually raise the standard of patient care. She is an author in several dental industry publications and is published as an oral health source for numerous online consumer-based sites. Her weekly video blog on YouTube; Anastasia's Hump Day Happenings answers questions from the general public on oral health topics. Anastasia is a spokesperson, independent consultant, working with several companies to develop website content, social media presence, continuing education programs and in-office training for dental hygiene departments on product integration with team communication.