A matter of life and death

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  Posted by: Dental Design      18th December 2023

Good record keeping can save lives

When John Saunders went for his regular dental check-up, the last thing on his mind was a cancer diagnosis. But dentist Jasleen Batra found a lump in his mouth – his lymph gland was swollen and very hard – and immediately referred him to the local hospital. The lump was diagnosed as cancer. In an interview with BBC News, Saunders thanked Batra saying, “I was incredibly lucky, if it hadn’t been for her the outcome would have been very different”.[i]

While rare, oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide.[ii] Approximately 8,300 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. That’s 1 in 50 cancer diagnoses. Approximately 2,300 people die from the disease each year and around half of all oral cancers are at an advanced stage when they are diagnosed.ii

Although there are risk factors heavily linked to the disease, mouth cancer can affect anyone (though it is twice as common in men than in women).ii It is vital therefore that the whole dental team – from dentists and dental nurses to dental therapists and hygienists – maintains a high level of awareness for any new symptoms or lesions in a patient’s mouth. They should know when and where to refer.  

The signs to look out for include: ulcers, white patches (leukoplakia), red patches (erythroplakia), speckled red and white patches (erythroleukoplakia), lumps on the lip or in the mouth, lumps in the neck and unexplained pain or bleeding.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, but there are a few areas where it is more common, including: lateral tongue, ventral tongue, the floor of the mouth and the retromolar region around the site of the lower wisdom teeth.

Dentists have a responsibility to educate their patients about the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of oral cancer. This can be done through informative brochures, posters, or oral health discussions during dental visits. Encouraging patients to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including tobacco cessation[iii] and moderate alcohol consumption, can greatly reduce the risk of oral cancer.iii

As you are aware, all dentists have a responsibility to screen for potentially serious conditions in the mouth, including cancer. It is established good practice for all dentists to screen their patients’ oral tissues every time they attend, whatever treatment is being carried out.

The dentist must then record the findings, whether negative or positive, and arrange an urgent referral if something suspicious is found.ii

That’s where keeping high-quality records plays its part. Being able to refer to a patient’s notes quickly and easily can highlight any previous areas of concern and help determine a treatment plan.

High-quality notes will evidence the properly considered decisions relating to patient care, demonstrate that dental professionals have exercised their professional accountability and have fulfilled their legal and professional duty of care. Indeed, as the Professional Record Standards Body states: “Care record standards exist to improve the safety and quality of health and social care, in particular to ensure that the right information is recorded correctly, in the right place, and can be accessed easily, by any authorised person who needs it, wherever they are”. Ultimately, the quality of record keeping reflects the standard of professional practice.[iv]

Of course, the advent of digital technology has revolutionised the record keeping process, allowing the dental team to work faster, smarter and more efficiently than ever before.[v] When data is digital, the dentist and patient can benefit from high-quality clinical information, enhanced diagnostic capabilities and more efficient implementation of major treatment plans.

Such advances are crucial given the fact that dental professionals are taking notes all day long. In fact, it is estimated that clinical document generation accounts for around 35% of their working day.

With Kiroku Docs, the latest feature from Kiroku, dental professionals can generate dental documents such as patient letters, clinician referral letters, and pre-treatment consent documents from their clinical notes in just one click. This transforms a task which would ordinarily take hours into a few short minutes. Each document template pulls in the relevant information from the clinical notes so that nothing has to be written twice. And in anxious patient times, such as a referral for a suspicious lesion, speed and professional presentation can be assuring as well as efficient. Patient information documents can be generated too.

By staying informed about oral cancer and providing comprehensive care, dental professionals can contribute significantly to reducing the burden of the disease and improving patient outcomes.

To find out more about Kiroku, or to start your free trial, please visit https://trykiroku.com/?utm_source=probe&utm_medium=trade_media&utm_campaign=brand

[i] BBC News https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-59255103

[ii] CQC https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/dentists/dental-mythbuster-33-detecting-oral-cancer-improving-outcomes-primary

[iii] Oral Health Foundation https://www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-risk-factors

[iv] NHS https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/dental-record-keeping-standards-a-consensus-approach/

[v] Delrose DC, Steinberg RW, The clinical significance of the digital patient record, The Journal of the American Dental Association, Volume 131, supplement 1, 2000, Pages 57S-60S, ISSN 0002-8177, https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.archive.2000.0404


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