“Where is the Chair?” campaign takes on oral cancer.
Your next happy hour could save your life. Since August 2014, the Virginia Dental Association (VDA) has provided free oral cancer screenings during lunch and after work hours at public shopping spaces across the Commonwealth as part of its “Where is the Chair?” campaign.
According to the VDA, more than 43,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the U.S. each year, and about 8,000 die as a result of the disease. All these deaths, says Michael Link, a Newport News dentist and VDA president, are preventable if the oral cancer is identified early on. “Close to 100 million people [in the U.S.] never saw a dentist last year,” says Link.
To increase awareness about oral health, Commonwealth dentists—all volunteers—set up an examination chair during happy hour events or the lunch rush in malls and outdoor public areas (like Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall and Roanoke’s 16 West Marketplace) and invite the public to sit down. The oral cancer screenings take about three minutes to perform, but it’s not all business—participants are encouraged to take “health selfies” in the chair and share them with their friends.
“It was actually pretty funny, because we had this big chair, and they have a band playing and people serving beer,” Link says of an event in Virginia Beach, “and we’re sitting here, dressed up in scrubs, and with masks and gloves on.”
At that event, VDA dentists screened more than 50 people, and referred two for further examination because of lesions that could be pre-cancerous.
“We do more than fix teeth,” says Link. “A healthy body starts with a healthy mouth.”
For more information and a schedule of “Where is the Chair?” events, visit VADental.org