How Dentists Can Lead The Fight Against Skin Cancer

A dentist has great power and responsibility when it comes to skin cancer – here’s how they are helping to save lives.

The Australasian Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics (AADFA) has just put a spotlight on Aussie dentists and their duty when it comes to detecting skin cancers, saying that dentists have the greatest advantage over most health care professionals regarding early detection.

AADFA Director and Head Trainer, Dr Myles Holt, says “when you think about it, dentists see more patients than any other health practitioner when they think they’re healthy, as we do checkups every 4-6 months, and as part of that we’re now encouraging dentists just to ask the question “do you use sunscreen every day?” to help combat some of the statistics we’re seeing from the Cancer Council. 2 in 3 patients before the age of 70 are getting some form of skin cancer. 

“So dentists with further training are able to identify and screen for some of these issues. Now we’re not saying that they become specialists in diagnosing skin cancer but it doesn’t take much extra training just to spot that something looks suspicious in a general checkup and then refer it onto a dermatologist.”

“Industry has changed a lot, and we now look at the whole head and neck area, and we take photographs as part of our usual routine of treatment and we can track those photographs. So what we’re asking dentists to do now is really step up more into a general health screening and preventative role rather than just teeth and gums, and really use their expertise to help patients way more than we used to.”

Holt says of their 3000 member base around the country, there have been several cases where dentists have screened their patients in a general routine dental examination, found something suspicious and referred it on, and it has turned out to be Basal Cell Carcinoma or Melanoma, so beyond just the teeth and gums, these dentists have ended up making a real impact in patients’ lives.

“Our members will be asking patients if they use sunscreen every day and reminding them of the importance of sun protection. While it may seem strange to some patients that their dentist is asking them about sunscreen, what many people don’t realise is that a growing number of Australian dentists are also qualified skincare experts.”

The Australian Dental Association agrees, saying that all dentists play an important screening process role. An ADA spokesperson recently told 7News “we have the opportunity to review and assess patients on a fairly regular basis compared to a lot of health professionals, and that screening does not just involve teeth and inside the mouth, it starts from looking at the skin and soft tissues of the whole head and neck area, so that screening role is a really vital role that dentists can play.”

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