With April designated as Oral Cancer Awareness month, it’s a perfect time for you and your team to talk about it with your dental patients. Although it’s a topic many patients may be fearful of, it’s important to address it, and can be done in a relaxed and comfortable way.
Just the Facts
Start by talking about the basics. Many dental patients will probably be surprised to know that there are more than 40,000 new cases of Oral Cancer diagnosed annually, and they’ll be pleased that you care enough about their health to help them understand their risks.
Ask About High-risk Behaviors
If you know a patient engages in high-risk behavior like smoking or using smokeless tobacco products, encourage them to quit and offer a list of local resource and referral services they can turn to for help. If you really want to drive home the dangers of smoking and tobacco use, show “Before and After” photos of a healthy mouth and one that’s ravaged by years of smoking or tobacco use. Though shocking, they can be especially effective in getting people to understand the potential consequences of those behaviors.
Know the Warning Signs
Before you begin the screening, ask patients if they’ve recently experienced any of the following:
- Mouth sores that bleed easily or won’t heal
- Any thickened areas, hard spots or lumps
- Any areas that feel rough or crusted
- Numbness, tenderness or pain
- Changes in bite or difficulty chewing or swallowing
Explain the Exam
Explain to your patients what you’re doing as you’re performing their Oral Cancer screening. Because it’s quick and painless, they might not even realize it’s happening. While a basic visual screen is a great place to start, consider the benefits of a system like the DOE Oral Exam System which gives you the power of “X-ray vision” by using multi-wavelength LED light to let you quickly distinguish between the green fluorescence of healthy oral tissue and the darkness of abnormal tissue. It’s an extremely effective way to detect potential Oral Cancer and dental caries.
Read All About It
Some patients might prefer to learn more about Oral Cancer by reading about it. Hang Oral Cancer Screening Wall Art in the reception area and treatment rooms during April and keep a supply of Bright Smiles: Oral Cancer brochures on-hand. Give patients extras and ask them to share this important information with their family and friends. They’re easy to add to your next order of SmartPractice Dental Supplies. And because they’re personalized with your name and practice information, patients and potential patients can contact you with any questions or concerns they have about their oral health.
Do you and your team have a strategy to talk to patients about Oral Cancer? How do your patients react to these conversations? Tell us about in the comments.