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!