CNC dental students treating patients with cancer

CNC is teaming up with the B.C. Cancer Agency for the North to provide dental care for patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers. Patients will receive a referral to the college’s dental clinic prior to the start of their cancer treatment to ensure their mouths are free of any infections. The dental care is mandatory before patients can receive cancer treatment.

“Dental assisting and dental hygiene students will provide them with oral hygiene services such as special fluoride trays and digital radiographs (X-rays) that can be sent to the cancer agency,” said Leslie Battersby, CNC Dental Studies co-ordinator.

“Second-year hygiene will also provide them with (plaque removal) above and below the gums and oral hygiene instruction.” Patients then go to the cancer agency for their treatment and return to CNC for their maintenance. The dental services are available to only those who don’t have a dentist and are from Prince George or out of town. The partnership came about when Dr. Gregory Ames, a long - time Prince George dentist who works with CNC’s dental students, was hired by the BC Cancer Agency for the North as its dentist for the oral oncology unit. The unit is open Tuesday mornings but does not provide full dental hygiene services. Therefore, Ames recommended CNC.

The B.C. Cancer Agency for the North contacted CNC and with CNC faculty on board, the partnership was formed. “The students see patients they normally wouldn’t see,” said Battersby. “They’re excited to have this opportunity, but it’s good for community health and good for their education. Thedental hygiene care needs to be done quickly and efficiently – that could be one or two visits, before the patient starts cancer treatment.”

Ashley Watts, a second- year dental student from Prince George, was the first to work on CNC’s first patient with cancer from the agency"’ve never treated someone with cancer before,” she said. “It’s broadening and expanding my education even more. We are at the forefront of dental care. I didn’t realize oral cancer can be diagnosed so late and I’m becoming more aware to check for oral cancer in future patients.”

Watts’ patient, Marita Parker, was more than happy to have her oral hygiene care taken care of at CNC. “I’ve received excellent service so far here, working with the students and following up with their instructors,” she said. “I’ll be more than happy to come back after my treatment for dental hygiene maintenance.” For patients without a dentist, there is a $30 charge for a patient’s hygiene care and X -rays and $50 for fluoride and trays.