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Oral Cancer Prevention

I’m in a bit of a silly season for me in dentistry with things being quite busy with teaching and serving in organized dentistry.

Last weekend, I was at Vanderbilt University lecturing there for two days on sedation in Tennessee, nitrous oxide and local anesthesia. I could have done it in one but their oral surgeons there got the choice of the times to speak.  They are amazing as they literally see some of the worst of the worst who may have died without their care.

This prompts me to remind everyone of oral cancer. About 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year.  Approximately 10,000 will not survive.  I’ve been blessed enough to help guide several patients to getting treatment for oral cancer.  Literally, this is the worst thing I can tell a patient.  It is so much worse than telling them about any number of root canals and crowns or needing everything extracted and dentures.  I am amazed by how few of the patients actually consent for a more advanced screening than just the dental examination.  It reminds me of the lady who was hit by a hard foul ball and went in for an x-ray to check things out and she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  They found it early which is so helpful in getting good news.  Every cancer is so maliciously quiet in the beginning.

Another bit of help can come from prevention. Limiting sun exposure and/or using lip balm in addition to sunscreen can go a long way.  Ceasing tobacco products (and even vaping) can only help to reduce those risk factors.  Minimizing alcohol is helpful as well.  One of the main sources of oral cancers these days is from Human Papilloma Virus.  HPV infections and related cancers are rising.  There is something to be said for the youth of both sexes being immunized as well as the more mature population being aware of risks of contact and contraction.

We all can be busy in our lives, but life happens when we make plans. Keeping up with your dental health and oral cancer screenings are just as important as feeling for lumps and bumps in the shower or monitoring suspicious skin areas.  Don’t do it for me whom you see a few times, do it for you who you see daily in the mirror!

Oct 30th

I remember hearing about today, the 30th, being something the first time when I saw “The Crow” with the late Brandon Lee.  Devil’s Night it was called.  Some other places it is known as Mischief Night.  The vandalism, mayhem and arson were so bad in Detroit in the 1990’s that it was rechristened as Angel’s Night and over 40K people volunteered to help protect the city.

It started a trifecta of days to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. In some cultures this marks Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Children used to dress up as their favorite saints and ask for a soul cake lest they would play a trick on the homeowner. I’m not just a dentist, I’m also a human.  Humans love candy.  That being said, as a dentist, I choose to give out chocolate for trick-or-treaters.  Anna and Elsa are big fans of chocolate.  Chocolate is more easily rinsed away by saliva and doesn’t cake onto teeth like some crunchy candies or stay into the grooves of the teeth like some chewy candies.  And studies show that dark chocolate may be better for you.   But, so is the exercise one gets going out in the neighborhood to get the candy for yourself or with your little heroes and ghouls.

Remembering 9/11

Patriot Day. I remember where I was 16 years.  I was an active duty Captain of the Dental Corps at Ft. Campbell.  I arrived that morning later than usual as I skipped PT that day since I played hockey the night before.  Was listening to what had happened as I drove in as they music was interrupted to tell us about the breaking news.  I got into Kuhn-LaPointe Clinic in time to see the second plane hit.  A crusty old Colonel said, “Looks like we’re under attack,” and walked off to our wide mouthed astonishment.  Later that day, I was in charge of the dental clinic as all the Colonels went to a meeting.  I was under orders to not out-process anyone.  A Special Forces soldier later came in and he was oblivious to the day’s events as he was going about post getting his signatures and stamps to Exit The Service.  Until he came to see me.  I had to inform him that I could not process him and that he had to return to his unit.  He colorfully asked to see who was in charge.  I told him that it was me and I had to order him to return to his unit.  I’ll never forget that, and then working long late hours getting that unit ready to depart in very short order.  I often wondered what became of him as I never saw him again and never knew if he was stop-lossed & deployed, got out, etc.

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