Complete NIP, receive free teeth whitening trays

  • Published
  • By Capt. James Koll and Staff Sgt. Reina Glenn
  • 509th Medical Operations Squadron
Have you ever wondered why your dentist has you stick out your tongue and say “ahhh” or why the dentist feels on your neck and chin when you get a dental exam? Most patients expect to have their teeth and gums examined, but many may not realize that they are also being screened for head and neck cancer. While it’s true that the teeth and gums are a primary concern for dental professionals, the surrounding
tissues are equally important in terms of evaluating your overall health.

During your check-up, the dentist is looking for anything abnormal like growths, ulcers, discolorations, and unexplained swelling. Similarly, when feeling your neck and chin, they are searching for lymph nodes that elicit a painful response.“But why?” you ask. Thousands of patients nationwide are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year and oral cancers make up a majority of those cases. The most common locations for oral cancer are the lips, tongue, and the mucosa that lines the cheeks and throat.

The major lifestyle risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco and alcohol use.

Additionally, the interaction of heavy tobacco and alcohol use together can raise the risk to nearly 100 percent more than the risk for people who don’t smoke or drink at all. Detecting early forms of oral cancer can be done at home on a monthly basis. Check your tongue, cheeks, and outer throat for things that don’t appear normal like lumps, bumps, sores, and red or white patches. If you dip or chew tobacco, you may notice a white, leathery area at the site where you place your tobacco. It is recommended that you alternate the location of where you place your tobacco to facilitate healing. As with the heat and smoke of inhaling cigarettes, the chemicals in the dip/chew cause the tissues in the mouth to undergo an accelerated cycle of cell death and rebuilding. This pattern raises the risk for abnormal cells being formed and oral cancer to initiate.

Since tobacco users have a higher incidence of oral cancer than non-users, the Whiteman Dental Clinic has joined the fight to help its members quit and is building off the momentum of the Great American Smokeout sponsored by the American Cancer Society. As an incentive to quit, the clinic offers free teeth whitening trays to members who successfully complete the Nicotine Intervention Program (NIP), offered by the 509th Medical Group Health Promotions Department, and remain tobacco free for six months or more. Those interested in the NIP can contact Mr. Brian Kirby at 660-687-1199.

If you have questions regarding your oral health and the risks associated with smoking, please contact your local dental office or the Whiteman Air Force Base Dental Clinic at 660-687-2201.