Oral Cancer Foundation

Be a trendsetter for oral cancer screenings

April 18, 2013
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. We are well-trained in hygiene school to perform a non-invasive visual and tactile oral cancer screening.

By Trish De Dios
April 18, 2013

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. We are well-trained in hygiene school to perform a non-invasive visual and tactile oral cancer screening. We perform it on every patient we see and the patients of our school clinic are accustomed to the comprehensive nature of the exam we perform. We then are set free from the chains of dental hygiene school and unleashed into the world of professional private practice. Unfortunately, the transition from school to work can cause us to cut corners and be negligent in our oral cancer screening, due in part to the demands of being in private practice. Employers are often apprehensive of the time constraints of the exam and may be misinformed regarding how screenings would take place in their practice.

My advice to the new grad is stay true to your ethical and clinical standards of care. Do not deviate from being thorough in your oral cancer screenings because of your newly acquired degree or work position. The most important part of a patient’s hygiene visit is this potentially life-saving exam, and once your patients and employer realize this, they will never undermine your clinical protocol. In addition to the great service you are providing your patients, it is a good business practice to create value in the dental hygiene appointment. Your patients are not just getting their teeth cleaned – convey to your employer and patients that when you are their hygienist, the hygiene visit will consist of a comprehensive oral cancer screening, gum disease screening, shade assessment, identification of contributing factors for diseases, and tailored dental hygiene recommendations. Then, of course, when you discuss the debridement part of the appointment, you should be sure to highlight that you wear magnification loupes and light. For the best scaling, you maintain your instruments to always have a sharp cutting edge. Even if you can’t apply all those things to your practice, the priority of the oral cancer screening should be applicable to every hygienist.

Oral Cancer Flair
Believe it or not, Oral Cancer Awareness is in style and conveniently easy for you to acquire. Did you know the Oral Cancer Foundation will gladly send you promotional awareness bracelets, buttons, and brochures for you to have available for you and your patients? These items are complimentary and I think it represents one of the most valuable things this organization does. Something as simple as sporting a burgundy oral cancer band can generate interest, imply priority, provoke change, and promote awareness. It makes a statement to me when an entire office is wearing professional lab coats and black clinical shoes and use magnifier loupes and a headlight. Now, take it a step further and imagine all those team members have completed their uniform with a burgundy oral cancer awareness bracelet. To me, this seemingly insignificant accessory is a true catalyst in spreading awareness about oral cancer and thus, saving lives. I challenge you to wear a band for at least one work week of your clinical hygiene practice. The questions it provokes and the opportunities it affords you to discuss oral cancer and your role as an early detection screener will prove invaluable to you. April the month devoted to oral cancer awareness, but since we are screening for oral cancer every single work day, I encourage you to make oral cancer awareness part of your daily uniform as you would your loupes and scrubs. Be a trendsetter for your office and colleagues. If you are looking to go a step further when it comes to patient education, and if burgundy matches your operatory décor, please visit the event page for the Oral Cancer Foundation. Under the tab “Getting Involved,” you will find printable fact posters you can frame for your operatory. Need to review your screening sequence? You will also find under this tab a video demonstration of a comprehensive exam. If you would like to know more about how to get involved with the Oral Cancer Foundation, feel free to email me at [email protected].

Trish De Dios, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works full-time clinically and is also a regional coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at [email protected].