Oral pathology is an essential part of dental care, as it allows us to diagnose symptoms and administer appropriate treatment quickly when there is a problem. As a dental assistant, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate oral or pharyngeal cancer caused by HPV or other carcinogens, such as tobacco and alcohol. By updating or obtaining new medical and dental records, or simply having informal conversations with patients while they wait for the dentist in the treatment room, you can gain valuable information that can help diagnose and treat anything that causes pain in the mouth. Oral and oropharyngeal HPV cancers are much more difficult to detect than smoking-related cancers because some screening techniques that use screening devices and tests do not identify HPV-positive oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
This is why it is important for dental assistants to continue their education and become aware of all forms of oral diseases, including oral and oropharyngeal cancers. When there are problems in the mouth, such as discomfort, tenderness, bleeding or unusual gum symptoms, oral pathology helps to find the answers. Risk factors for oral diseases include smoking, drinking, poor oral hygiene, unhealthy diet, and social determinants of health and well-being. It is important to be prepared to explain the condition to the patient with terminology that they can understand.
The American Association of Dental Assistants (ADAA) remains committed to promoting quality dental health care to the public and improving the public image and prestige of the dental care profession. Dental assistants are valuable members of the dental team and can play a key role in helping the dentist detect this deadly disease. Oral pathology takes into account your personal health history to consider what existing medical conditions might specifically affect you.