With oral cancer, antiquated dental hygiene practices are overdue for advancement

Sarah Crow, RDH
Sarah Crow, RDH.

ADPIE (assessment, diagnosis, plan, implement, and evaluation) is a process of care that has been taught in both medical and dental educational institutions all over the U.S. since the 1950s and sets the standards for clinical dental hygiene practice. It's within these five words that dental hygienists construct our appointments with each patient. It's as if each phase of the appointment leads us to the next as we systematically document each critical detail and step.

The Standards for Clinical Dental Hygiene Practice published by the American Dental Hygienists' Association states that "dental hygienists are encouraged to enhance their knowledge and skill base, to maintain continued competence." Dental hygienists can do this with technology!

When it comes to technology in the hygiene room, you may want to pay close attention, because you don't want to be left behind. Over the years, we've had technologies assist in providing an elevated standard of care.

Complements to our basic standards include digital medical history forms, automatic blood pressure cuffs, voice-activated periodontal charting software, salivary diagnostics, intraoral scanners. Now in 2024, we've been fortunate to adopt a technology that upgrades our dental hygiene strategies with the minimally invasive, maximally preventive use of airflow technology and the Airflow Prophylaxis Master device by EMS. With increasing technological advancements, and implementation of the guided biofilm therapy protocol, we can now provide curated care that allows the patient to be part of the process and take ownership of their oral health all while providing a strong yet preeminent standard of care.

Antiquated dental hygiene practices are overdue for advancement, and it's our responsibility as licensed clinicians to stay up to date with the latest in dental hygiene. Consider yourself lucky if you have the good fortune of working with a dentist who shares your preventive philosophies and invests in their hygiene department with the technologies listed above.

Fortunately, over the past few years, there has been a strong shift in the way dentists and patients alike perceive dental hygienists. The word has gotten out that we are more than just your tooth cleaner.

Arguably, one of the most important touch points during our time with patients is oral cancer screening. However, this lifesaving screening has been left in the dust when it comes to technology. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center Report, here are some important facts to be aware of:

  • More than 700,000 new cases are diagnosed globally per year.
  • Seventy-three percent of oral cancer cases diagnosed are considered late stage with a survival rate of five years.
  • Oral cancer is projected to be the third most prevalent cancer among men in the U.S. in 20 years, and misdiagnosis is the No. 2 reason why dentists are sued.

Maybe you've detected oral cancer in a patient or spotted a suspicious-looking lesion, but how competent do you really feel about your oral cancer screening capabilities? Sadly, once oral cancer is detected by visual inspection and palpation, it's often too late. As dental hygienists, we like hard data, but something about oral cancer screening always feels a bit "iffy." Oftentimes, our assessment findings are clear as mud. We need technology to help.

With the use of the BeVigilant OraFusion System, early detection of oral cancer is being revolutionized, with results chairside in 15 minutes or less. The salivary biomarker test, which was developed by an attorney whose parents both died of oral cancer, provides real-time feedback to the dental professional.

The results assist with whether a referral for a suspicious lesion should be escalated sooner. This technology helps dental professionals identify the patients who need follow-up or immediate attention by a specialist. Finally, a technology that helps elevate survival outcomes in oral cancer through early detection.

The system comprises a lateral flow cassette that looks like a small iPad. The hygienist adds four drops of saliva to initiate a test. Coupled with the clinician's input of the patient's risk factors, such as gender, age, smoking status, and alcohol use, the reader measures the amount of three specific proteomic biomarkers.

These biomarkers are proteins that become elevated as tissue becomes cancerous and have been researched and chosen based on their goal of early detection. Results of low-risk, moderate-risk, or elevated-risk status are delivered chairside in minutes.

The BeVigilant OraFusion System has launched commercially in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. It has been granted a breakthrough device designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Sarah Crow, RDH, started in the dental industry in 2004. She currently serves as the immediate past president of the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association. She is a senior executive consultant for the Cellerant Consulting Group and a U.S. trainer for the Swiss Dental Academy in the field of guided biofilm therapy with EMS. She presents educational content both virtually and in person to dental professionals across the U.S.

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

Page 1 of 116
Next Page