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WVU School of Dentistry provides oral cancer awareness at community health fair

When it comes to care and treatment, West Virginia University School of Dentistry and its accompanying WVU Dental clinics are committed to improving the oral health of West Virginians one patient at a time. Sometimes carrying out that mission means offering services and educational opportunities on location in the heart of communities.

Dental and dental hygiene students work with faculty at an oral cancer screening.

An invitation to participate in a community health fair at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clarksburg, West Virginia has turned into an annual oral cancer screening and oral cancer awareness event.

The Department of Diagnostic Sciences, which offers oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology and oral medicine services at the Health Sciences Center clinics, partners with the Department of Dental Hygiene to educate residents about causes, signs and treatment of suspicious lesions.

Dental and dental hygiene students work with faculty to provide oral cancer screenings.

Dental and dental hygiene students, along with expert faculty, spend the day in a familiar setting for residents communicating, answering questions and carrying out oral cancer screenings.

Counseling about oral cancer includes free kits for health fair visitors that include a flashlight and mouth mirror along with written instructions on how to perform monthly self-screening.

Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition supports the outreach event in a number of ways including donating screening kits.

Dental and dental hygiene faculty oversee students at the oral cancer screening community event.

A total of 46 people received a kit and one-on-one counseling from dental students about performing oral cancer screenings at home. A dozen others received one-on-one counseling about tobacco and nicotine use and methods for cessation.

Raising awareness of oral cancer is the overall goal for dental and dental hygiene students who volunteer for the event. But, in some instances, student and faculty providers do make recommendations based upon the on-sight screenings.

The community service events requires work from students, faculty and staff.

This year, 16 oral cancer screenings were performed. One of the 16 health fair participants was recommended for further evaluation of a suspicious lesion. All participants were referred for hygiene services or encouraged to see their dentist and hygienist for regular exams and cleanings.