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How a Pennsylvania dental practice is making patients aware of Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 14, 2014
Oral Cancer Cause (OCC) is a big part of the dental practice's oral cancer awareness

It’s the middle of the month, so by now everyone should be aware that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. To call attention to this important cause, many dental offices are going above and beyond the “normal” oral cancer exam by discussing the exam more thoroughly with patients, offering oral cancer education, and making donations to oral cancer awareness causes.

One such practice is Weaver Reckner & Reinhart Dental Associates, with offices in Souderton and Harleysville, PA. The dental teams of the practice recently teamed up with Oral Cancer Cause (OCC) – founded in 2013 by Linda Miles and Robin Morrison in memory of Charlotte Estep, Linda Miles’ sister-in-law, and Mike Collins, Robin Morrison’s brother – to help bring oral cancer to the forefront of people's minds.

OCC’s purpose is to improve the quality of life for oral cancer patients through financial support so that they may face the world with peace and dignity during and after medical treatment.

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“By teaming up with Oral Cancer Cause, we are letting our patients know we care about fighting oral cancer,” said Dr. John Reckner. “Although all dental exams involve screening for oral cancer, this month patients absolutely know they have received one. They leave the office with a bright purple sticker and a brochure that contains facts about oral cancer to share with their families, and about OCC and how it helps families with oral cancer.”
Pictured here is dental hygienist Tanya Malec with patient Michael Schaffer sporting his sticker.

Signage in Weaver Reckner & Reinhart Dental Associates' window alerts passersby of this important issue. The office is donating $1 for every cancer exam done in April, and they are asking patients to match the dollar. All funds raised will be given to OCC.

Dr. Reckner recently took time to answer a few questions from DentistryIQ about oral cancer, OCC, and the practice.

QUESTION: How long has your practice been active in OCC?
A few years ago, we hosted Eva Grayzel for our staff to hear her passionate story of survival with oral cancer. This cause was brought to our attention by Linda Miles last fall. Drs. Tracy and George Reinhart are regular attendees of the University of Florida's annual oral pathology symposium, and Dr. Tracy Reinhart said, "We enjoy bringing back the most up-to-date information and sharing it with the team.”

Q: Why is OCC something that your practice believes is important?
DR: OCC has a great mission of directly helping families affected by oral cancer. Our team sees firsthand what cancer can do to patients and their families. This is a way of helping families when they need it the most, and showing them they have the support of their dental family. In addition to OCC, we strive to stay connected to our community through many charities. Some examples are stocking a local food bank, collecting back-to-school supplies, and raising funds through our own dental office cookbook.

Q: What sort of success stories has your office been a part of?
Unfortunately, we have been through the referral and diagnosis process of oral cancer too many times, but with as early detection as possible, and outstanding oral surgery and oncology teams, we have seen our affected patients return to full health. Dr. Todd Weaver said, "Our patients appreciate their oral cancer exams, and we often biopsy suspicious areas right in our office where they feel most comfortable."

On the rare occasions a serious lesion is found, we help guide our patients through the oral surgical and medical referral process. During treatment these patients have special dental needs, from more frequent hygiene visits to special mouth appliances to deliver fluoride and desensitizing agents. The happiest thing for us is seeing a patients return to a normal hygiene schedule and feel healthy again.

Q: How do you share the word with patients?
Our hygienists and doctors let patients know we are doing oral cancer screenings. This involves visual and physical exam, as well as discussing risk factors. During April, we are hanging oral cancer awareness posters, handing out brochures, and asking patients to wear stickers that let everyone know they had a screening.

Q: What is the feedback from patients?
The response has been great. Patients walk out proudly wearing their OCC sticker!

Q: Do you share this important information with colleagues, and if so, how?
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and with over 40,000 new cases of oral cancer each year, it is a great opportunity for our profession to step forward and let our communities know dentistry is looking out for them. Due to HPV, oral cancer is on the rise in younger people than in the past. The viral-caused cancers are harder to find early and seem more aggressive. We look everywhere in the oral cavity and throat that we can see.

Q: Are practice members involved in community activities to support oral cancer awareness?
With three busy offices, our team stays active by staying vigilant with patient exams, discussing prevention by eliminating risk factors, and getting to know people and their family histories. Some team members have raised funds and participated in the local walk for oral cancer.
(Pictured above is, from left, dental team members Courtney Moyer, Dr. Tracy Reinhart, and Valerie Johnson.)

Q: Robin (Morrison) mentioned the OCC sterling and Swarovski crystal bracelets that were given to each team member. Was the staff surprised? Have the doctors been similarly generous in the past?
DR: Several of our team leaders saw the OCC jewelry display at the annual ADOM convention and thought it was a terrific way to reward our staff for their efforts last year, and to let them know we support the care they give our patients. The team was surprised and delighted to received the jewelry, and they proudly wear their new fashion accessories! Currently celebrating our 20th anniversary, the doctors here truly appreciate all the team does to make the practice so successful. Over the years "surprise" gifts have included a cruise, shopping sprees, flowers, candy, car washes, and logo items such as jackets and shopping bags. We strive to a have team that is energized, educated, and feels supported. They are experts in their field!