One Month, Two Important Causes
While April always starts off on a lighthearted note, this month also serves to bring attention to two notable causes in the world of oral health. That’s right—April is both Oral Cancer Awareness Month and National Facial Protection Month. It’s a perfect storm of advocating for preventive measures to maintain oral health.

National Facial Protection Month (NFPM)

Starting in 2000 the American Association of Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) has been on a mission to spread the word about the importance of protective gear—such as mouth guards—to prevent oral or facial injury through the NFPM campaign. They’re calling for all members of the dental industry to join in and impress upon their patients that it’s always better to prevent an injury than to treat one.

To help dental professional do this they’ve gathered together a wide range of resources to share across social media pages, on practice websites, and in-office hands out to patients and more. You can access these resources here:

The campaign features actionable tips for everyone to follow, including:

  • Wear a mouthguard for all contact or collision sports (football, hockey, rugby, etc.)
  • Wear a helmet for any activities that risk injury to head or face (biking, roller blading, baseball, etc.)
  • Be alert to your surroundings as a player or a spectator

As dental professionals, you have a wonderful opportunity to share the rewards of taking necessary precautions to avoid facial and oral injuries. During April and all year round talk with patients about their risks for these injuries and provide resources on fitting them with a mouth guard—this is both good for the patient and for your practice’s bottom line. Plus, forming a relationship with oral and maxillofacial surgeons can lead to a beneficial relationship where you share referrals and build trust within your community.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Dental groups all across the country, including the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, work together with the non-profit group Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) to raise awareness of oral cancer screenings and the importance of early detection every April.

According to the OCF an estimated 51,550 people will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancers in the United States this year—and even more harrowing is that 40% of those individuals most likely won’t survive past five years.

As dental professionals you’re at the front line for educating patients on and helping detect this disease. A great way to do this is to offer in-office oral cancer screenings as part of routine visits if a patient wants one. This can help alleviate concerns of potential medical issues if the test is negative or ensure early detection if the results are positive for oral cancer. In addition, it helps foster a sense of trust between clinician and patient because you’re demonstrating that you care about their overall well-being.

Beyond clinical, in-office exams, dental professionals can also help patients learn to do self-exams at home. There are many resources online showing how to do this, like this step by step guide. These checks can help detect early symptoms such as:

  • Areas with pain, tenderness or numbness
  • Open sores that aren’t healing or aren’t from too hot food, biting your lip, etc.
  • Unusual bleeding that takes a while to stop
  • Swelling or bumps
  • Discoloration of the lips, gums, tongue or roof of mouth

By coming together as an industry and supporting the mission of the OCF and Oral Cancer Awareness month the dental industry can help the well-being of their patients and create a positive reputation as a caring health care partner—a win, win for all involved.