It’s safe to go for check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic — and a visit to your dental hygienist could be life-saving.
A fear of going to the dentist had kept Brian Arundale away for years. When his wife suggested he see her new dental hygienist, Brian decided to make an appointment. He would have the dental hygienist take a look at the canker sore that had been bothering him for a few weeks.
But as soon as dental hygienist Candice Boyce looked in Brian’s mouth, she knew he had something much more serious than a canker sore. Candice immediately called an oral surgeon and asked for Brian to be seen that day.
“I found out later that the wait for an appointment was supposed to be four weeks. But Candice knew that because I was so nervous, if I’d had to wait, I probably wouldn’t have gone. And because she knew what she had seen, she told the receptionist it had to be that day,” says Brian.
The surgeon performed a biopsy and three weeks later, Brian was diagnosed with oral cancer. A few weeks after that, in March 2019, he had a 12-hour surgery to remove the cancer and repair his tongue. The surgeon also removed 78 lymph nodes from his neck and shoulders. Fortunately, the cancer hadn’tspread further and was only detected in one node.
“Everything happened very quickly,” says Brian. “And that, in my opinion, is all thanks to Candice reacting so quickly and getting tough for me. Candice is a very special person.”
Your mouth offers clues to your overall health
A dental hygienist since 2010, Candice wants people to know how important it is to care for their oral health. Many believe that what happens in the mouth stays in the mouth, but this is simply not the case. Your oral health offers clues about your overall health, and problems found in your mouth can affect the rest of your body— and your dental hygienist can find these clues. For example, bacteria that build up on teeth make gums prone to inflammation and infection. If left untreated, this can lead to gum disease, bone loss, and even tooth loss. In addition, it can cause problems in the rest of your body. Poor oral health has been connected to diabetes and heart disease, among other health conditions.
Despite this, Candice says that fewer people are going for dental check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic due to safety fears. “We’re now seeing more periodontal disease, gingivitis, and cavities,” she says. “I think people are putting their oral health on the backburner, and it’s leading to bigger issues now that people are starting to come back.”
Don’t take chances with your health
Dental and dental hygiene offices have put strict infection prevention and control protocols in place to protect clients and staff so it’s safe to continue with regular visits. Dental hygienists assess the health of your teeth and gums, perform oral cancer screenings, remove tartar and stains from your teeth, and apply fluoride and sealants to prevent cavities — all essential steps that can prevent more serious health complications.
“Dental hygienists spend time with you and see you often over time. This means we can see if anything is changing, which enables us to intervene more quickly,” says Candice.
Brian agrees that people should practise prevention and go for regular oral hygiene visits. “I don’t even want to think about where I’d be today if it weren’t for Candice. I’m eternally grateful to her,” he says. “Don’t take chances with your health.”