Talk about the problem before it becomes one for your patients

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  Posted by: The Probe      11th October 2019

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation looks at mouth cancer ahead of Mouth Cancer Action Month.

There’s no doubt that when it comes to the subject of cancer, it’s a topic many of us would rather not spend much time discussing.

For obvious reasons, the dreaded ‘c’ word can be a sensitive topic for so many, regardless of whether you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair or standing next to it.

As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, one of the biggest messages we seek to share is that “a simple trip to the dentist could save your life”. We want to urge Brits to attend their local dental practice and make sure that the first conversation they have about mouth cancer isn’t being told they might have it.

It is somewhat ironic that in order to increase our chances of preventing a disease that could take our voice away, we need to talk. However, this is exactly what we need to do, and we must be the front-runners for it. Not only during the campaign in November, but all year round.

Talking to patients about their mouth cancer risk might not be the most pleasant or enjoyable aspect of a dental appointment, but I’m sure your patients would prefer to be proactive as opposed to reactive given the choice.

Prevention is always better than cure. This isn’t necessarily about giving your patients a telling off for smoking or drinking alcohol. Rather informing them of how to help avoid a terrible disease.

During every routine check-up, a patient should receive a mouth cancer check. However, there are many Brits who believe they are not getting one during their appointments, or at least aren’t being told they are.

Opening a dialogue with your patients about the fact that you’re conducting a mouth cancer check, what you’re looking for and why can go a long way to creating a more informed community.

Patients that can be considered to be most at-risk of mouth cancer, those that consume tobacco or drink alcohol excessively, should be encouraged to check regularly at home for any unusual changes in or around the mouth.

Furthermore, patients who make relatively healthier lifestyle choices should be reminded that they are not immune from the disease and to return if they also spot any unusual changes.

For those who are unaware, either of the disease or that they’re being examined for it, they will take vital new information away from their check-up.

We are all at risk of mouth cancer. Patients should be encouraged to share this information with their family, friends and other people in their lives. It will serve as a welcome reminder of why regular trips to the dentist are so important. Maybe even life-saving.


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