General Dentists are the First Line of Defense Against Oral Cancer
General dentists are often the first doctors to examine oral cancer disease conditions. Patients rely on their general dentists to examine lesions closely, order biopsies when appropriate, and refer them to specialists.
American Dental Association: Oral Cancer Precautions
Currently, the American Dental Association advises:
- Clinicians should obtain an updated medical, social, and dental history and perform an intraoral and extraoral conventional visual and tactile examination in all adult patients.
- For patients with suspicious lesions, clinicians should immediately perform a biopsy of the lesion or refer the patient to a specialist.
- Salivary and light-based adjuncts are not recommended for evaluating lesions for malignancy.
If you refer a patient to a specialist for a biopsy of a possible oral cancer lesion, make sure you follow up with that patient to ensure compliance with the referral. If the patient refuses the referral, you must warn them of the likely consequences of that refusal, such as a cancer diagnosis that is too late to treat effectively, the loss of their jaw or their eyeball, or death. Please be sure to document that discussion in your notes.
When patients are non-compliant, it increases the risk that the dentist will be held responsible for adverse outcomes related to that noncompliance. Warning the patient of the likely consequences of noncompliance and documenting that discussion puts the onus back on the patient, and not the dentist. For more on this topic, log into your customer portal and watch Dr. Daniel Oreadi’s webinar, “Diagnosis and Management of Oral Cancer,” and earn two CEUs plus a two-year discount on your EDIC premium. Policyholders, check out EDIC’s oral cancer case studies here.