Nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the next year, and only 57% of those diagnosed will live 5 years after diagnosis. The good news: your dental practice is well placed to have a positive impact on your patients’ lives when it comes to this threat to their health. This post will address some important aspects of your role as dentist in the fight against oral cancer. Prevent cancer by educating patients, conduct oral cancer screening to catch symptoms early, and provide gentle dental care to patients who have been diagnosed and are facing treatment.
Prevention is Best
The best option when it comes to oral cancer is to prevent it, and dentists are on the front lines in the prevention battle. Don’t miss an opportunity to give patients life-saving information: inform new patients about the risk factors of oral cancer, including tobacco use, HPV infection, and family history. Explain the importance of regular dental visits and yearly oral cancer screenings as part of your standard patient education plan.
HPV: The profile of the cancer patient has changed
Older men who used tobacco products or drank heavily used to be the most likely to develop oral cancers. But these days, HPV-caused cancers are affecting younger patients, as well as both men and women. Many young people and their parents are not aware that the HPV vaccination is now available. It is recommended for children who are 11-12 years old. This vaccine has been shown to reduce instances of oral cancer.
Before and during treatment
Not only are you and your staff on the front lines of indentifying oral cancer in your patients. You are also the key to preparing them for cancer treatment. Before chemo or radiation therapy begin, you should develop a treatment plan for getting any outstanding dental procedures done, especially in the area of the body where treatments will be focused. You should also advise patients about how to mitigate damage to dental health caused by cancer treatments. They can use antioxidant products aimed at maintaining good oral health during chemo and radiation. Help combat cancer by arming your patients with the best possible dental health.
We’ve talked in previous posts about including important aspects of whole-body health like nutrition in your dental practice’s portfolio of treatments and services. Making sure you are prepared to effectively battle oral cancer through education and screening, as well as supportive treatment, may be the single most important improvement you can make to your dental practice. Make oral cancer a priority at your practice: do it for your patients!