AGD President-Elect Highlights the Role of General Dentists in Early Detection of Oral Cancer

  • by AGD Staff
  • Apr 28, 2021

The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), together with the AGD Foundation, is committed to building awareness about oral cancer, one of the most preventable cancers. An estimated 54,000 individuals in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed this year alone, and only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years.

AGD President-elect Gerald Botko, DDS, MAGD, is one of the organization’s biggest advocates for building oral cancer awareness. He shares information and provides answers to brief questions while weighing in on how COVID-19 has impacted oral cancer screenings.

What do you think is the largest barrier to combating oral cancer?

The largest barrier to combating oral cancer is the lack of awareness and education. However, the most effective practices that will reduce oral cancer rates and improve survival rates is routine opportunistic screenings from a dentist who can aid in early detection. The dentist is the first line of defense with this disease.

Knowledge of the risk factors and early signs of oral cancer is vital since prevention is key and early detection can save many lives.

What can general dentists do to improve oral cancer screenings?

Some of the top things a dentist should be doing to correctly administer a quick painless non-invasive oral cancer screening, using both visual and tactile methodology, are:

  1. Do a complete extra-oral examination including the face, eyes, ears, nose, neck and thyroid.
  2. Do a complete intra-oral examination including the buccal mucosa, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate and the tonsils and tonsillar area. The floor of the mouth, a horse-shaped area has approximately 28-30% of all mouth cancers.
  3. Keep an eye out for changes such as mouth ulcers which do not heal in 2-3 week, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck area. In addition, look for sudden tooth mobility without any apparent reason and unusual oral bleeding or epistaxis, prolonged hoarseness, a chronic earache or paresthesia of the tongue or lips.

What are some practices that aid in oral cancer prevention?

Individuals can work to prevent oral cancer by:

  1. Limiting tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption
  2. Protecting themselves from getting the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) transmitted through oral sex and increased partners. Being aware of the risk and how HPV contributes to oral cancer is important. Dentists should be comfortable with talking about the risk and routine vaccine for ages young people ages 11-13 years old before any sexual activity.
  3. Being aware of how sun exposure can increase mouth cancer, especially the lips.

About the Academy of General Dentistry

Founded in 1952, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. AGD provides its more than 40,000 members with the resources, support and education they need to deliver the best dental care and oral health education to the public. AGD's mission is to “advance general dentistry and oral health through quality continuing education and advocacy.”

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