Midwest Dental's hygienists join fight against oral cancer

April 27, 2007
Midwestern group dental practices participate with The Oral Cancer Foundation in donating part of exam to foundation.

During April, Midwest Dental will donate $20 of each ViziLite Plus with TBlue* oral cancer screening to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF). I had an opportunity to speak with Tammy Filipiak, RDH, BS, director of dental hygiene at Midwest, about the role of the dental team in the fight against oral cancer.

Filipiak said, "Hygienists in our group have indicated that patients accept the recommendation for the ViziLite screening and they trust us to make appropriate recommendations for their care. It has also raised awareness for the traditional screening that we have always done."

Heidi Schelvan, RDH, who works in the Wausau Midwest Dental office, says, "This service is similar to other screenings, like those for breast cancer or cervical cancer, the thought being that it is very important to catch things early to ensure the best scenario for treatment. I have been amazed at how many patients are not familiar with the prevalence of oral cancer and its risk factors. I also have the opportunity to educate all of my adult patients about the incidence of oral cancer, even those without any risk factors. I consider it my responsibility to offer this screening to our adult patients, and I think it is a great add-on for the traditional oral cancer/head and neck exam."

Filipiak said that Midwest Dental has developed strong hygiene protocols that include risk assessment for individual patient care. The focus is on the medical model for care-treating the patient, not just the disease. She is very proud that the group is involved in such an important preventive initiative. "I have an amazing job and get to work with dentists, dental hygienists, and staff every day who work hard to live by our mission statement, which is 'To be the professional dental organization who exceeds the expectations of our patients and staff.'"

Midwest Dental is a dental management company headquartered in Mondovi, WI, with 48 clinics in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. To locate a Midwest Dental clinic near you, visit www.midwest-dental.com.

*ViziLite Plus with TBlue is an FDA approved oral cancer screening tool. ViziLite Plus is a quick and painless exam. The patient uses a rinse to dry the tissue in the mouth. Using a special glow stick, the dentist looks for abnormalities. Anything that is abnormal appears white, while healthy tissue absorbs the light and appears dark.

Facts About Oral Cancer

Approximately 34,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2007. When discovered early, oral cancers have an 80 to 90 percent cure rate. Unfortunately, the majority of oral cancer is found at the late stage and accounts for a very high death rate. As with other types of cancer, age is the primary risk factor, with 90 percent of oral cancer victims 40 and older. However, all adults age 18 and older are considered to be at increased risk for oral cancer.

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, other risk factors include:
• Tobacco use

• Excessive alcohol consumption

• Excessive unprotected exposure to the sun

• Low intake of fruits and vegetables

Risk factors that are not controllable include:

• Age — older individuals tend to develop more diseases in general

• HPV viral infection — a prevalent sexually transmitted virus

• Race, ethnicity, and economics — there are socio-economic factors that influence the development of cancers in different groups of people. For instance, while not related to biology, African Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer 2 to 1 over other races. In addition, people who live in areas with poor access to health care, or for economic reasons do not routinely visit a dentist or doctor, are also at increased risk.

• Recurrence — previous head and neck cancer patients have a higher risk of cancer recurrence

• Gender — statistically males get oral cancer more often than females

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, eVillage