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Your Dental Office News, April 30, 2022: Oral Cancer Screening / Our Dental Office, Your Choice

This has been a busy start of spring but we didn’t want to let April end without recognizing Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Even if you have no teeth, it’s important to visit your dentist at least every year for an oral cancer screening. The appointment only takes 10 minutes, and this quick exam can literally save your life. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, we’ve included an article from the ADA in this newsletter. If you have a sign or symptom that doesn’t disappear within two weeks, please make an appointment ASAP.

Also in this newsletter, we highlight two things that make us different from many general dental practices. The first is our commitment to patients with special needs, reflected this month in our tabling at The World of Possibilities Expo. The second is the number of ways in which we give our patients choices, instead of deciding for them.

This month we started asking our team members to offer their favorite recipes for each newsletter. Thank you to Ryn, Front Desk Coordinator and editor of this newsletter, for the recipes in our previous issues!

In This Issue:

  • The Wonderful World of Possibilities Expo
  • From the ADA: Oral Cancer
  • Self-Test for Oral Cancer
  • Our Dental Office, Your Choice
  • Honoring Our Team Members
  • Free At-Home COVID-19 Test Kits
  • Recipe of the Month (from Lena, Practice Manager): Vegan Pasta Primavera
  • Please Leave us a Review!

The Wonderful “World of Possibilities” Expo

Photos from left to right: Abbey and Larry Maples, old friends catching up. Lindsey had a great time passing out dental goodies at our booth.

On Saturday April 9, after nearly 2 years of COVID-19, our dental hygienist Lindsey and our front desk coordinator Abbey had the pleasure to represent our dental office once again! The hugely attended and successful World of Possibilities Expo was a real blast! This year, the expo was held close to home, at the Clarion Inn, in Frederick, Maryland. Lindsey and Abbey spent the day sharing information on how our practice provides dental treatment to patients with special needs. They provided goodie bags with toothbrushes and other oral health aids, as well as educational tools for a patient population that is very near and dear to our hearts. Lindsey and Abbey made quite a few new friends and enjoyed spending time with old friends! They can’t wait to attend again next year!

From the ADA: Oral Cancer

Article Source: Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer

Oral cancer is divided into two categories – those occurring in the oral cavity (your lips, the inside of your lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, the front two-thirds of your tongue and the floor and roof of your mouth) and those occurring in the oropharynx (middle region of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue).

Early detection may result in better treatment outcomes and may help keep you or someone you love from becoming one of the 11,230 people whose lives may be claimed this year by the disease. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is approximately 60 percent.

Where Can Oral Cancer Appear?

The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue, as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

It’s important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms and to see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Some people complain of a sore throat, feeling like something is caught in their throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in voice. If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more.

What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Research has identified a number of factors that increase the risk of developing oral cancers. Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer than women. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers older than 50 are the most at-risk. 

The human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, has also been associated with throat cancers at the back of the mouth. HPV-positive head and neck cancers are related to the rise in throat cancers in non-smoking adults. HPV-positive head and neck cancers typically develop in the throat at the base of the tongue and in the folds of the tonsils making them difficult to detect. Although people with HPV-positive cancers have a lower risk of dying or having recurrence than those with HPV-negative cancers, early diagnosis is associated with the best outcomes. Regular dental check-ups that include an examination of the entire head and neck can be vital in detecting cancer early.  

How Can My Dentist Help Detect Oral Cancer Early?

During your regular exam, your dentist will ask you about changes in your medical history and whether you’ve been having any new or unusual symptoms.

Then, your dentist will check your oral cavity. This includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, the front part of your tongue, the floor of your mouth and the roof of your mouth. Your dentist will also examine your throat (pharynx) at the soft part at the roof of your mouth, including your tonsils, the back section of your tongue and where your tongue attaches to the bottom of your mouth. The dentist will then feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or abnormalities.

What Happens If My Dentist Finds Something Suspicious?

Stay calm. Your dentist won’t be able to tell right away if what he or she is looking at is cancerous, so he or she may refer you for testing. Your dentist might also reexamine you a week or two later to see if questionable spots are healing on their own before recommending additional follow-up. Together, you and your dentist can create the best strategy for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?

The most important thing is to be aware of your risk factors. Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer as they get older. If you smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or have a poor diet, changing these habits can decrease the chances of developing oral cancer.

Certain strains of HPV can also put you at risk. The CDC recommends that 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls get two doses of HPV vaccine to prevent cervical and other less common genital cancers. It is possible that the HPV vaccine might also prevent head and neck cancers – since the vaccine prevents an initial infection with HPV types that can cause head and neck cancers – but the studies currently underway do not yet have sufficient data to say whether the HPV vaccine will prevent these cancers. Routine vaccination can be started as early as 9 years of age, according to the CDC

If you have had oral cancer before, you may be more likely to develop it again so keep up those regular visits.

Self-Test for Oral Cancer

If you don’t want to visit your dentist for the oral cancer screening, please at least perform a 2-minute self-examination every month. This 3-minute video, made by the Mouth Cancer Foundation,Self Examination For Mouth Cancer (Full) #MC7 teaches you how to examine your neck, lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6QkKhEjS5M) and points out what to pay attention to.

Our Dental Office, Your Choice

When discussing Oral Cancer Awareness Month at the beginning of this newsletter, we urged you to come into the office at least yearly to have an oral cancer screening. We understand, however, that you may have good reasons not to do that. So, we also provided you with information about how to perform a self-test at home (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6QkKhEjS5M).

Offering choices is typical of the way we operate as a practice. We pride ourselves in providing choices to our patients whenever we can. 

  • In your choice of clinicians. We serve a diverse community, and offer you a diverse choice of dentists and dental hygienists. You don’t have to explain why you prefer another hygienist or doctor when making your appointment. None of us takes offense. We understand that different people have different preferences, and most important to us is that you feel comfortable with whoever is treating you.
  • In your choice of appointment time and date. Though we’re not yet able to resume our pre-pandemic hours, we continue to be open from Monday to Friday, two Saturdays a month, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays until 6 PM.
  • In your choice of treatment. Dr. Levy’s “triad” philosophy, which we all follow, is the following: 1) These are the facts (what we observed in your mouth). 2) This is our clinical recommendation about how to treat the condition, but there are alternative treatments, each with advantages and disadvantages. 3) The choice is yours, based on your own considerations, whatever they may be. (We will not decide treatment for you unless it’s an emergency.) 
  • In your choice of how the treatment is provided. If you’re mildly anxious or have mild special needs, we can offer you the choice of oral conscious sedation (nitrous oxide laughing gas and/or sedation pills).
  • In your choice of where to get treatment. If you’re very anxious or have special needs that require additional attention, instead of treating you in our office we can treat you under general anesthesia in a hospital operating room. (At this time, however, our O.R. waiting list is still very long due to hospital restrictions during the pandemic. We do have an ASAP list for when we get cancellations.). 
  • In your choice of specialty dental care. There are times when we feel you would best be served by having a dental specialist perform that specific treatment. You will be offered a list of specialists who we trust, instead of a single clinician in that field.
  • In your choice of how to live your life. If you know you should floss daily, yet you don’t, we are not going to humiliate you. We’ll gently suggest you floss – yet again – but we will do our best to avoid making you feel judged.
  • In your choice of whether or not to be our patient. We have many immunocompromised patients. Our infection control protocols, discussed and updated monthly in our all-hands meetings, are based on our careful research of what we believe will keep everyone safe. If you believe our protocols are too stringent and would prefer to seek care elsewhere, just let us know and we will promptly provide your next dental office with your medical records. If you believe they’re too lax, please let us know. Our primary concern is everyone’s overall health and safety.

As Dr. Levy says, “It’s your health, your mouth, your money, your decision.” If you ever feel that we’ve not lived up to the statements above, please let us know.

Honoring Our Team Members

MVP – Flora

Every month we recognize a team member who has gone above and beyond for our patients or other team members. 

In March, we recognized Flora as our MVP. Flora is a great team player who goes above and beyond to help out. Flora is a very experienced dental hygienist who is also fluent in Spanish. She helped out multiple times in March to ensure our Spanish speaking patients are able to communicate effectively with other team members. Flora has worked part time with us for many years and will be joining our team as a full time hygienist in the near future. Thank you Flora for being a valued member of our team!

Service Recognition: Lindsey and Emily

We are proud of our outstanding team of professionals, many of whom have been with Dr. Harvey Levy & Associates for several years. In March, we celebrated 2 team members! Lindsey, one of our dental hygienists, has been treating and educating patients in the importance of good oral health and homecare for 12 years! Emily, a dental assistant and front desk team member, celebrated the completion of her first year with us. She keeps us laughing with her sense of humor and is incredibly helpful to both teams. We are so fortunate to have Lindsey and Emily working with us, and we look forward to many more years with both of them in our office family!

Free At-Home COVID-19 Test Kits

We still have a small supply of COVID-19 at-home test kits that will expire at the end of May 2022. We are offering these kits to our patients free of charge. Please contact our Front Desk Staff if you are interested in picking one up.

Vegan Pasta Primavera

“Primavera” in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese means spring, and that’s exactly what the ingredients for this recipe suggest! The Pasta Primavera recipe below is vegan and is all about fresh, green spring vegetables and a delicate, light flavor. It is also easier to prepare than the classic Pasta Primavera, because there’s no need to serve it immediately to prevent the mix of heavy cream and Parmesan cheese from congealing. 

Notes

Prep Time: 15 minutes (depending on your chopping skills and the ingredients you choose)

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 3 to 4 portions

For nutritional info, please visit https://www.acouplecooks.com/vegan-pasta-primavera/

To make it gluten free, use a GF pasta. 

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti (or any other kind of pasta, gluten free or not)
  • 2 portabella mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound (½ bunch) asparagus
  • 1 bunch broccolini (or 2 cups broccoli florets, with stems kept as long as possible)
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped (or 3 ounces baby spinach)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh peas (10 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or liquid aminos. If you’re GF, use tamari)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon zest to garnish

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside). Then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  2. Chop the vegetables: Meanwhile, thinly slice the portobello mushroom caps (remove the stems). Chop off the tough end of the asparagus. Slice in half lengthwise so that each stalk forms 2 long thin stalks (doesn’t have to be perfect). Then slice them in half crosswise. Slice off the thick ends of the broccolini and keep the large florets (if using broccoli, cut the broccoli into medium small florets, keeping the stem as long as possible). Wash and roughly chop the spinach, removing any long stems (skip this if using packaged baby spinach). Mince the garlic.
  3. Cook the vegetables: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the broccolini and asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until wilted. Add the frozen peas and saute for 1 minute. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute. (You could also consider adding a pinch of red pepper flakes at this point!)
  4. Add olive oil to pasta: Once the pasta is cooked and drained, drizzle it with olive oil.

Add final flavorings and serve: In a small bowl stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onion powder, dried oregano, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. After the vegetables are done, stir in the pasta and toss so the vegetables are evenly distributed, then pour the olive oil and spice mixture on the pasta and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt if necessary (or serve with salt). Serve immediately garnished with lemon zest.

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