Examining oral cancer detection technologies

Dentists should be conducting oral cancer screenings to help spread awareness and spot oral cancer before it becomes irreversible.

There are a variety of ways dentists can enhance an oral cancer screening examination in terms of adding available technology to enhance the oral cancer screening. Attendees of CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in San Francisco will get a firsthand look at how technologies in this area have changed over the last several years and how new technologies can be included in their practices.

Jonathan A. Bregman, DDS, FAGD, will lead a workshop titled Enhanced Oral Cancer Detection: A Hands-On Experience on Friday, Aug. 21. At this workshop, dentists and dental hygienists will be able to touch, feel and experience the new technologies that are available to enhance early detection of oral cancer beyond the basic/standard white light examination. Attendees, working in pairs, will learn to discern the differences between enhanced oral cancer detection technologies that use reflectance and fluorescence technologies plus they will experience each enhanced detection technology and determine which one works best for them.

Bregman has practiced clinical dentistry for close to 40 years, taught at the University of North Carolina Hospital and Dental School and has presented more than 400 programs around the world.

Bregman recently spoke to CDA Update staff about his San Francisco workshop.

Tell us a little bit more about your background.

I had been in full clinical care until about six or seven years ago. I began lecturing in 2007 and then in 2008 I really focused what I was doing on early oral cancer detection and the new technologies for early detection. I have presented hundreds of lectures all over the country and spoken at every major dental meeting in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand. I have brought learning about oral cancer and the new technologies for early detection to each of these programs.

Do you do this same presentation a lot?

There is constantly new research and products coming out in terms of early oral cancer detection. Since it is in a constant state of change and development,  my presentations change as well. If you go back a few years, the technology has changed quite a bit.

Getting into that, how has technology changed in recent years when it comes to oral cancer detection?

The first oral cancer technology that helped scan the surface of the mouth came about 15-plus years ago. That is reflectance technology. The next advancement came nine years ago when fluorescence technology began to allow dentists to look under the tissue. As few as two years ago, there have been new technologies that have come on the market using fluorescence technology.

What are some of the misconceptions out there among dentists when it comes to technology in this area?

One of the main misconceptions is that if  a dentist uses one of these technologies they are opening themselves up to more malpractice claims. That is not the case as long  as the examination with the enhanced screening technology is done correctly and properly recorded. Sometimes dentists just write off technology because they don't think it works or they think it takes too much time. I dispel the fact that it takes a long time. Overall, there is a large body of ongoing research about these technologies and their value.

What are the differences between reflectance and fluorescence technologies?

Reflectance is the original technology developed to enhance early detection of oral cancer. It uses viewing the surface of the oral tissues after a drying rinse. The idea is more surface irregularities will be seen using a special light. The key here is enhanced surface changes. Fluorescence technology  came a few years later. Fluorescence technology allows you to see under the tissue. As with any new technology, some offices have had varying results with the early reflectance technology and have stuck with that approach. Others have taken on fluorescence technology and have had success with the technologies using that approach. Whichever one is used, all help to enhance detection of early oral cancer changes, which will lead to saving lives.

What is it that you hope attendees take away from this workshop?

I want them to leave with the ability to make an educated decision about what they want in their practice as far as one of these enhanced early oral cancer technologies; to bring one in or not bring one in at all right now. This education will come from the lecture program in advance of the hands-on program, the one-on-one personal experience in the hands-on course and the round table debrief after all technologies have been experienced.

Dentists who would like to attend this workshop must first attend the Enhanced Oral Cancer Detection: Guide Your Practice to Thrive While Saving Lives lecture from 8 to10:30 a.m. on Aug. 21.

Dentists are reminded to share MouthHealthy.org's educational information with patients. Dentists also can print CDA's oral cancer fact sheet and share it with their patients. The fact sheet is available in multiple languages.

Dentists can help their patients become tobacco free by using the online tobacco cessation information on U.S. Health and Human Services' Be Tobacco Free website or Smokefree.gov. Dentists also can refer their patients to 800.QUITNOW (800.784.8669) or 800.NOBUTTS (800.662.8887) for phone support and to set up a personalized plan to quit.

For additional information, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation's website at oralcancerfoundation.org.

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Dentists who would like to step back into the classroom to gain a better understanding of the anatomy of the human body and how it relates to dentistry will want to attend CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in San Francisco.