Guest Column
Karina Bapoo-Mohamed
TGNA Clinical Coach – Hygiene

“Last time I saw you, you said to me to go ‘sooner than later’. Those words kept haunting me, in January I went to my family doctor, who referred me to another doctor…He did a biopsy and within 2 days he called to say it was Stage 1 Cancer. ..I am ever so grateful to you and just want to give you a Big Hug! Everyone that asks how/why I had it checked and all I say is thanks to my Dental Hygienist”. Patient ‘Dauna’

This bittersweet note above is a story of a successful patient engagement to an early intervention for needed care. This outcome validates the need for routine head and neck exams and supports the notion of partnering with patients to achieve positive patient safety outcomes.

In this 2 part write up, “Dentistry Does Save Lives”, we will address firstly the paramount importance and need for routine head and neck exams to be conducted in dental practices, so early referrals can be made. The second part will share the 4 steps used to successfully engage the patient for follow up and referral.

As dental professionals, we are trained to identify routine ailments that involve the teeth and periodontium. Caries, gingivitis or periodontitis, ulcerations, erythroplakias/leukoplakias are all disease entities that we should be familiar with when performing comprehensive or recare examinations.

Unfortunately, a thorough examination of the head and neck and the important oral structures is often overlooked on a routine basis for various reasons. A few of these reasons include:

  • Time is one of the key barriers
  • Lack of confidence, knowledge, skill and ability to know what is abnormal
  • Skills to communicate suboptimal findings to patients…after all it’s the “C” word!
  • The dentist does the head and neck exam
  • Concern about client compliance
  • Lack of guidelines and tools

This clinical success story gives credence to the absolute need to conduct routine head and neck examinations as an integral part of the hygiene appointment. The 4- 5 minutes it takes to conduct the exam can save lives!

Are you confident in your knowledge to locate, review and update base line data and communicate findings to patients as well as refer patients appropriately?

Review the CDHA guideline below:

https://files.cdha.ca/Education/Courses/Oral-Cancer-4page-booklet.pdf