The most important part of my job as a dental hygienist - the part I take most seriously - is an oral cancer screening on every patient at every appointment. I appreciate you visiting my page, reading why this is important to me, and perhaps even donating to this worthwhile cause.
I conduct an extraoral cancer exam first, feeling the lymph nodes and glands of the head and neck, joking with my patients that "it feels like the cheapest massage you'd never pay for." I then take a look inside the mouth, looking for abnormalities of all kinds: HPV-associated cancers in the back of the throat, characteristic lesions under and on the sides and back of the tongue, and feeling and examining all the tissues from the lips and cheeks, to the floor and the roof of the mouth. The whole process only takes 3 minutes.
For every male patient under 45 years old, I ask them if they've had the HPV vaccine - something they are surprised to have their dental hygienist ask but appreciative when I explain why. For every athlete, I ask them if they're wearing SPF chapstick when exercising outside. For every smoker, marijuana or vape pen user, or tobacco chewer, I ask them if they are aware of the effects on not just their lungs, but also on their teeth, organs, and their entire quality of life (and if they've ever thought of quitting or know how). Why do I take this so seriously?
80% of oral cancers can be prevented and treated if they are caught early. (1)
The survival rate of advanced stage oral cancers is only 20%. (1)
The rate of HPV-associated throat cancers in men now outpaces the rate of HPV-associated cervical cancers in women. (2)
The CDC now recommends men under age 45 receive the HPV vaccine to prevent throat cancer. (3)
From 2017 to 2018, tobacco use of any kind increased 38% for high school students and 29% for middle school students. In 2018, more than 20% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes on a regular basis, almost double the number from 2017. (4)
The ingredients in e-cigarettes cause rampant dental decay, "popcorn lung", gum disease, tooth loss, and tissue changes leading to cancer. (5,6)
Like many people, I have also been personally touched by people in my life, before I was born and even now whom I worry about, with nicotine addiction and resulting oral cancers. Statistics often drive the rational part of why we do things. Emotional and personal circumstances often drive why we care so much and feel dedicated to a cause.
I feel honored that a big part of my job can actually make a difference and change someone's life for the better through oral cancer screenings. This was exactly why I wanted to enter dental hygiene - to serve people using preventive healthcare. Walking and fundraising for The Oral Cancer Foundation supports research, education, and advocacy for those with oral cancers. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and consider donating what you can.