Ask any 6 year old, blowing bubbles with bubble gum is a fun and fabulous skill to develop. Sometimes, it’s hard to blow a bubble because the gum isn’t right, or the chewer hasn’t learned to blow a good bubble yet. Sometimes, oral cancer has robbed the person of the ability to chew a bubble and blow a beautiful bubble.
April is oral cancer awareness month, and the 2018 Bubble Gum Challenge is up and running. If you’re looking for a fun and interesting way to engage patients in a conversation on this serious (and definitely not fun) topic, consider joining in.
The campaign encourages patients to chew bubble gum, blow bubbles, and post pictures of those bubbles on social media. Participating dentists (or other groups) then keep track of the number of photos posted. At the end of April, make a donation based on the number of photos posted.
The benefits from the monetary donation to support oral cancer patients and their families are easy to understand. But, the awareness is at least as important. People may not realize that oral cancer claims teeth, pieces of the palate, pieces of the tongue, and sometimes takes part of the jaw. The happy medium of blowing bubbles provides a great opening to educate patients about the dangers of oral cancer in a less gruesome way.
Oral cancer still claims the life of more than 4 in 10 people diagnosed with it in the United States within five years. This is largely because it is not caught in the early, most treatable stages. Routine screening for oral cancers does not get the attention that routine screening for other cancers can get. Opening a dialog with patients about the importance of regular screening is vital to changing that.
It’s particularly worth noting that oral cancers are on the rise among younger patients. Talking to young people about this subject is particularly important since younger people are more likely to skip routine dental or doctor visits and view themselves as impervious to serious illnesses, like cancers. Conversation starters that engage younger people can be particularly valuable with this group.