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Q&A: Educating Patients and Oral Cancer Awareness

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A: We have definitely seen a few more oral cancer cases within the past few years. It's very important to relay a sense of urgency in these situations to ensure our patients get to a specialist for further evaluations and treatment. The trick is to balance that with a sincere sympathy and let them know that we want to be involved with their care along the way.

Q: How do you coach and teach patients at your practice?

A: Like many of my colleagues, I often feel that lack of time prevents me from educating patients while they are sitting up. Often times, I call out perio charting as it happens, describe what I'm seeing while I scale and give lots of analogies in humorous ways so that  the "lecture" doesn't seem like one. I also depend on my iPhone for photos, draw pictures on treatment plans and try to get the mirror out every once in a while to show people what I?m talking about. 

Q: What has been your most memorable moment as a hygienist?

A: I took a high blood pressure reading during a routine hygiene visit with one of my patients and spent a bit of time explaining the oral/systemic link. I strongly suggested he take the time to visit his doctor for an evaluation. Months later, my boss told me that the secretary of his local dental association thanked him and me for taking such good care of her husband. After a visit with me, he saw his physician, started taking blood pressure medication, and ate better (something she had been trying to convince him of for years!)

Charlotte Stirk graduated from SPJC in 1998 and has been working 4 days a week with Dr. Steven L Steakley for 14 years at his general dentistry practice. She received her Bachelors degree in 2007 from Saint Petersburg College and is considering going back to college again when her 2 daughters get a little older. She considers many long term patients an extension of her family and is excited about the laser treatments her office now provides.

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