By: Lorrie Ward Jackson | Category: Health & Fitness | Issue: July 2010
The friendly team at Thomas Dental and Eye Care (L to R): Dr. Dirk Thomas, Kim LeFlore, Dawn Schaffitzel and Cher Frazier.
When one hears the words “early detection” today, they will automatically think of cancer. That is because early detection is one of the key factors in survivability when it comes to any type of cancer. According to Dirk Thomas, D.D.S. of Thomas Dental and Eye Care, if oral cancer is caught early, it is one of the most easily treatable kinds of cancer there is.
“If we can catch it early, we can remove it sometimes even without anesthetic,” says Dr. Thomas. “If you wait until you notice it, it is often going to require far more serious treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation.”
With this in mind, Dr. Thomas recommends screening for oral cancer once a year. In the past, screenings were provided at the Oklahoma Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. Now, however, Dr. Thomas is providing an in-office procedure using a product called VizLite Plus. After he thoroughly examines the patient’s mouth, Dr. Thomas has the patient rinse their mouth with a solution, then utilizes the VizLite light source that picks up abnormalities often missed. If a lesion is found, it is marked with a blue dye called T-Blue so that it can be further inspected.
Dr. Thomas encourages all patients to undergo this screening annually, but points out certain risk factors. Tobacco users are at highest risk, and if one drinks alcohol on a regular basis in combination with tobacco use, the risk goes even higher. “Alcohol with tobacco is a cancer cocktail,” says Dr. Thomas. “If you combine the two, you exponentially increase your chances of cancer in your mouth.”
Dr. Thomas points out that cancer prevention is not the only concern when it comes to good dental health. Simply taking care of your teeth increases quality of life in more ways than one. “You live longer if you have your own teeth. You can chew your food better, which places less stress on your digestive system, keeping you from developing gastrointestinal problems and allowing better absorption of vitamins and minerals.”
Because dental health is so important to overall health and longevity, Dr. Thomas encourages patients to be actively involved in decision making. “We show you a picture of what is going on in your mouth – it is co-discovery,” he says. “I can answer your questions and address your priorities. It’s your mouth, it’s your choice.”
To help those who are nervous about a trip to the dentist, Dr. Thomas’s office is equipped with everything from comfort memory foam chairs to overhead televisions, to headphones. “We really focus on patient care,” says Dr. Thomas. “Every effort has been made to encourage relaxation.”
Dr. Thomas also reports a new development with the “Eye Care” portion of Thomas Dental and Eye Care, which is run by his wife, optometrist Dr. Lanita Thomas. Thomas Eye Care is now signed up with insurance company VSP, which gives patients more options than ever before. “In dentistry, you can use your insurance in most offices. In optometry, it’s all or nothing, so this is very important,”
Whether your needs are dental or optical or both, the Drs. Thomas and Thomas encourage everyone to make both issues a priority for quality of life. “People are living far longer than they used to,” says Dr. Dirk Thomas. “You might as well get busy living.”