Dos and don'ts for the hygiene department: Emphasize oral cancer screening

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If your patients are allowed to think that a hygiene appointment at your practice is "just a cleaning," they'll find it much easier to forego this visit, especially if they're uninsured and attempting to trim their budget. By including oral cancer screening on a comprehensive list of clinical services provided during the visit and effectively communicating their oral health value, you'll motivate more patients to maintain their hygiene habit.


Help protect your patients against oral cancer. Oral cancer strikes more than 48,000 Americans and kills almost 10,000 annually, with those who use tobacco products or drink alcohol especially vulnerable. Early detection increases the chance of survival significantly, and you and the hygienist will typically be the first healthcare professionals with an opportunity to notice something suspicious. Performing this service will not only help your patients but also strengthen the practice-patient relationship.


Don't stop with the initial visual exam. If you do include routine oral cancer screening during hygiene visits but only look for unusual spots with the naked eye, consider upgrading your approach. There are now technologies available for enhanced visualization of possible precancerous or cancerous sites -- as well as for performing biopsies at your office. Adding these capabilities will increase the value of hygiene visits considerably.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group, the leading dental practice consulting firm in North America. For the complete list of dates and locations where you can attend his latest seminar, visit

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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