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Oral Cancer Awareness Month

By Heartland Dental

While April has ended, Heartland Dental supported doctors and team members will always strive to do the “right thing for the right reasons” and support important causes that make a difference in the community, for example Oral Cancer Awareness Month.  

Oral Cancer Awareness Month is an annual observation that underscores the fact that early detection greatly increases long term survival.  

With oral cancer affecting any tissue in the mouth, including the gums, tongue, lips, or the back of the throat, the observance also emphasizes the importance of making oral cancer screenings part of the dental exam routine.  When found in the early stages, oral cancer has an 80 – 90% survival rate. However, usually oral cancer doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms or pain in the beginning, making it difficult to detect without a proper screening. This causes many cases or oral cancer to go unnoticed until the disease has progressed leading to a high death rate.   

Early detection and treatment of oral cancer can be the difference between life and death. That's why Heartland-supported doctors and hygienists are making a significant impact in their communities every day by promoting the importance of early detection of oral cancer. 

One remarkable story comes from Tillery Family Dental, where Dr. Mike Tillery and Courtney Tillery-Bornstein, a hygienist in the office, helped save a patient's life by detecting oral cancer early. Melissa Vincent was looking for a new dentist when she received a mailer from Tillery Family Dentistry. During the oral cancer screening portion of Melissa's visit, Courtney identified some worrisome signs and referred Melissa to an oral surgeon. Melissa was diagnosed with stage two oral cancer, and thanks to early detection and treatment, she is now cancer-free.  

Melissa's story with Tillery Family Dental is a powerful reminder of the importance of early detection and the critical role that dental professionals can play in detecting oral cancer. You can watch Melissa tell her story in her own words here.  

In addition to the efforts of individual dental offices, many Heartland Dental supported offices partner with nonprofits and the broader community to promote oral cancer awareness. One such organization is Oral Cancer Cause.  In 2016, Oral Cancer Cause started the “Blow a Bubble For Those Who Can’t” to help raise awareness about oral cancer and the importance of regular screenings in a fun way. Many oral cancer patients have had their mouths reconstructed and teeth, palates and pieces of their tongues removed. Among other things, they aren’t able to chew gum or blow a bubble.  

This year almost 250 Heartland-supported offices participated in the event to raise awareness about the importance of oral cancer exams. 

It's clear that early detection and prevention are crucial in the fight against oral cancer. Heartland Dental supported offices are proud to play a role in promoting awareness and providing screenings to their patients. The story of Melissa Vincent and her life-saving experience with Tillery Family Dental is just one example of the impact that dental professionals can make in their communities.