Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are on the rise. According to the NIDCR, oral cancer accounts for roughly three percent of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States, or about 54,000 new cases estimated to be diagnosed this year, with approximately 11,230 deaths. With oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment is the key to successful outcomes. As dental professionals we are an important part of the diagnostic process. Most patients will have more visits per year to their dentist than their primary care physician. Our involvement goes beyond just detection; dentists should be an integral part of the treatment team, maintain oral health, support the patient and family, and work alongside the patients’ entire cancer team to assure positive outcomes.
Most general dentists will not see many cases of oral or oropharyngeal cancer in their private practices on a regular basis or routinely deal with the very different approach often needed in these cases to keep or restore the oral health of these patients. Once discovered and diagnosed, there is often little time to react dentally before cancer treatment begins and the dentist must quickly shift gears to that of saving a life rather than that of only saving teeth or cosmetic concerns. One must be adequately trained prior to this diagnosis in the dental aspects and the team treatment aspects of immediate and continuing care for this patient or be prepared to refer to a dentist who does this kind of work on a more routine basis. In either case, the time to think about outcomes and your own training is now. It could mean life or death to your patient.
The mission of the Academy of General Dentistry Foundation (AGDF) – the philanthropic arm of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) – is to support the efforts of the general dentist toward improving the oral health of the public. The AGD Foundation is committed to promoting oral/oropharyngeal cancer awareness, risk factor prevention, and diagnostic training for general dentists and the patients they serve. It is in this effort that the AGDF has developed this oral cancer toolkit intended to provide the resources for dental health professionals to confidently screen patients and know what to do once lesions have been detected. This toolkit includes information on comprehensive screenings, what to look for, when and where to refer, what to do when a lesion has been determined to be cancerous, and how to maintain care throughout and after the duration of treatment for cancer patients.
The tool has been developed for the user to be guided to resources through links here for more information.. We invite you to peruse this toolkit and use it in your practice to aid you in helping your patients stricken with this devastating disease. Many of the websites have a vast collection of information and we encourage you to explore them beyond the articles we have suggested here in the toolkit. This has been done to help ensure the most up to date information is available. We also welcome your feedback, positive or negative, as to the usefulness of this tool. If you like the tool or see anything you think might need to be added for dentists to be able to use it more effectively, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.