Oral Cancer Awareness

Oral Cancer Awareness

Most people know that cancer is a potentially life-threatening health condition that can affect anyone. But fewer people know that oral cancer is often only diagnosed in its later stages, leading to a higher death rate than for many other types of cancer.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the signs of oral cancer, risk factors and prevention, and what to do if you’re concerned about your own risk.

What is Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is considered a form of head or neck cancer. It is officially defined as any cancer in the oral cavity: the lips, gums, or anywhere inside the mouth. This includes on or under the tongue, behind the wisdom teeth, the roof of the mouth, and the upper areas of the throat at the back of the mouth. 

Cancer happens when normal cell DNA mutates so cells don’t die when they should. Instead, mutated cells accumulate, spread, and may form tumors. If left untreated, the cells may spread to other body parts such as organs, soft tissue, bone, and blood.

Oral cancer accounts for 3% of annual cancer cases in the United States. In 2022, around 54,000 patients were diagnosed with oral cancer.

Risk factors for Oral Cancer

While anyone can develop cancer, some factors can make oral cancer more likely. For example, it is most often found in people over 40 years old and in twice as many men as in women.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 75% of people who develop oral cancer have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Tobacco use (both smoking and smokeless forms like chewing, vaping, or hookah)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sun exposure on the lips. Oral cancer often starts with squamous cell carcinomas in the lining of the lips.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Most throat cancers are caused by HPV 16 specifically.
  • Family history of oral cancer 

Signs of Oral Cancer

There are several signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, from the minor to the life-disrupting. They may include:

  • A lip or mouth sore that bleeds easily and does not heal within two weeks
  • Leukoplakia or Erythroplakia: White or reddish patches on the inside of your mouth, either flat or slightly raised, that bleed easily
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • Unexplained mouth or ear pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chronic bad breath

What to Do If You’re Worried About Oral Cancer

See A Professional

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you “make an appointment with your doctor or dentist if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that bother you and last more than two weeks.” A physician or dentist will assess your symptoms and rule out other potential causes such as infection. 

Oral cancer is diagnosed by a clinical inspection and confirmed via biopsy or imaging such as a CT or MRI scan. Once confirmed, healthcare professionals will prescribe treatment based on how far the cancer has progressed. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

While there are factors that increase your risk of developing oral cancer, there are also things you can do to lower that risk. These include:

  • Getting vaccinated against HPV
  • Avoiding tobacco in all forms
  • Keeping alcohol consumption moderate
  • Protecting your face and lips from sun exposure by wearing broad spectrum sunscreen and protective clothing like hats and visors
  • Performing monthly self-checks of your mouth, looking for any of the signs listed above
  • Seeing your dentist regularly. As part of a routine exam, your dentist will inspect your mouth for any signs of cancer or precancer.

There is no way to completely prevent cancer. But armed with an understanding of the causes and symptoms of oral cancer, you are empowered to reduce your risk as much as possible.

If you’re worried about the health of your mouth or teeth, call your dentist or reach out to us today!

Women in Orthodontics

Women in Orthodontics

The history of women in orthodontics is very similar to the history of women in any medical field in the last two centuries: a fight for access and recognition that has led to ever increasing opportunities.

Women Dentists of the 19th Century

In the 19th century, as professional dentistry became more scientific and organized, most people believed that women were physically and mentally unable to study science and medicine at higher levels. And they were certainly not suited to the rigors of life as practicing dental professionals. According to one Dr. George Baker in 1865, “the very form and structure of woman unfits her for its [dental surgery] duties.”

One woman, however, was already proving that this was far from the truth.

Emeline Roberts Jones, one of the most famous pioneers of women in dentistry, began studying and working in secret after her husband, dentist Daniel Jones, denied her a position in his own practice. Emeline went on to fill or extract hundreds of teeth before finally convincing Daniel to take her on as an assistant in 1855. After Daniel’s death in 1864, Emeline took over the practice, providing dental care to patients throughout eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island. She ultimately retired in 1915 but not before receiving several awards, serving on the Woman’s Advisory Council of the World’s Columbian Dental Conference in 1893, and being named an honorary member of the National Dental Association in 1914.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor was another trailblazer. Denied entry to formal dental schools, Lucy convinced practicing dentists to take her on as an apprentice before striking out on her own and eventually gaining acceptance into the Iowa State Dental Society. By 1866, Lucy was the first female Doctor of Dental Surgery, a title granted by the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. She would later say: “People were amazed when they learned that a young girl had so far forgotten her womanhood as to want to study dentistry.”

Women in Dental Education

Despite Emeline and Lucy’s success and the creation of several women’s dental associations, women practitioners remained a rare sight through the first half of the 20th century.

The tide began to turn, however, thanks to the influence of the women’s liberation movement and the general growth of women in white collar positions.

The passing of Title IX in 1972 granted women equal access to educational opportunities, leading to a steady increase of female dental and orthodontics students. 

Women also made great strides in dental education leadership: in 2010 there were over 100 women deans and associate/assistant deans in dental schools. Meanwhile, dental school enrollment is now evenly split between women and men.

Achieving Equality in Orthodontics

In 2021, close to 35% of all practicing dentists identified as women, while women made up 66% of dentists below the age of 44 and 97% of practicing dental hygienists

Membership data from the American Association of Orthodontists show a similar increase in female orthodontic professionals. While only 34% of all active and lifetime members are women, the gender parity is nearly equal for younger members (49% women vs 51% men). Female student members outnumber their male counterparts at 58% to 42%. At the current pace, the AAO estimates their membership will be 50% women in about 15 years.

Women dental professionals still face challenges due to their gender. They often earn less than their male colleagues and are less likely to own their own practice. But thanks to the tireless efforts of women like Emeline Roberts Jones, Lucy Hobbs Taylor, and the millions who followed in their footsteps, the orthodontic field has and continues to make enormous progress towards gender parity and equality for all.

Orthodontics and Private Equity

Orthodontics and Private Equity

If you follow business news, it may come as no surprise that private equity in healthcare is steadily increasing. Dentistry is no exception. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that solo ownership of dental practices has declined in the last two decades, from 2 in 3 dentists in 1999 to 1 in 2 in 2019.

But what does this mean for you as a patient or a parent looking for the best treatment for your child? And how does it affect your choice for orthodontic care in Maryland?

What is Private Equity?

Private equity is a type of capital investment that provides funds and resources to companies in exchange for a share of that company’s profits.

You may be familiar with venture capital firms that often make headlines, but private equity works a little differently. Where venture funds look for new ideas and start-ups to invest in, private equity firms generally partner with established, privately owned businesses (i.e. not traded on the stock market) to help them expand. These partnerships last 7 – 10 years, at which point the private equity firm helps the partner business move on to the next phase of investment.

Private Equity in Dentistry

In dentistry, private equity typically takes the form of Dental Support Organizations (DSOs). There are many kinds of DSOs and many reasons for partnering with them.

According to the ADA: “Some DSOs support practices that are multidisciplinary, while other DSOs concentrate on dental practices that are focused on a specialty or general practice only.”

DSOs may provide access to better facilities, updated equipment and technology, administrative and human resources management, higher salaries, and increased staff. This can mean more time and ability to care for patients and a better work-life balance for practitioners.

Private Equity in Maryland Dentistry

When it comes to DSOs, Maryland law keeps a strict separation between the business side of a dental practice and the patient care side.

First, all dental practices – including orthodontic practices – must be primarily owned by one or more people licensed by the Maryland Board of Dentistry. These licensed owners are completely responsible for patient care and safety.

Maryland law states that DSOs may provide funds and other resources for a variety of business-related matters. For example, DSOs may own, lease, and/or manage the “real property or furnishings, equipment, or other goods that are used by a dentist or dental practice”. DSOs can also provide or oversee administrative areas such as bookkeeping, human resources, and managing patient records.

On the other hand, all patient care and dental services must be directly overseen and provided by a licensed individual. Only a licensed individual can hire or direct other dental staff (such as dental hygienists or assistants). Additionally, Maryland law expressly forbids “any person who is not a licensed dentist to direct, control, or interfere with the independent professional judgment of a dentist or dental hygienist regarding the diagnosis, care, or treatment” of a patient.

Dental and orthodontic practice owners are also required to provide continuity of care. This means that if the practice is unable to complete a patient’s treatment for any reason, then the owner must ensure the patient is transferred to another licensed provider.

Choosing an Orthodontic Practice in Maryland

There are many orthodontics practices in Maryland that offer excellent care. We hope the information here helps you better understand the role private equity can play in our field and assures you that Maryland regulations provide protection for patient care no matter which practice you choose.

Choosing Saini Orthodontics

Saini Orthodontics is not only the first orthodontic practice in Columbia but also the only Howard County practice entirely owned by a father and son team! All treatment and practice management are directly overseen by Drs. Raj and Ty Saini. We do not answer to any investors.

Our owners are also our main practitioners. All new patient cases are reviewed by Raj and Ty in order to create one cohesive treatment plan shared by the doctors and our dedicated support staff.

Both Drs. Raj and Ty are certified by the American Board of Orthodontics and teach at NYU and the University of Maryland on a continuous basis. They also perform all technical procedures (such as placing and removing braces, bending wires, and placing bonded retainers), ensuring the best possible treatment for all patients.

Looking for orthodontic care in central Maryland? Give us a shout! We are always happy to explain any aspect of our Howard County orthodontic practice and get you or your child on the road to a healthier smile!