Genetic tests have gotten a lot of attention lately, but you might be surprised to learn where they're turning up next: at the dentist's office.
Jennifer Bottjer is a dental assistant but also a patient. She worries about oral cancer because she's beyond the age range for the HPV vaccine.
"Females under the age of 40 and nonsmokers, which I am, are also at a high risk. You always think it's someone a little bit older, somebody who smokes are the people who get cancer. I just want to make sure I'm safe for myself," said Bottjer.
She'll be taking a new HPV saliva test to find out if she is at risk.
"I'm going to hand this to you, you're going to spit in here," instructs Dr. Michael Koczarski, Koczarski Aesthetic & Laser Dentistry.
Koczarski is one of the first dentists in the country to offer this test, plus two others, which screen for gum disease.
"All three give you an answer, whether you're at risk for gum disease because you're genetically predisposed to it, and number 2 the bacteria: Are there bacteria present that could cause gum disease? Then you know right away what to do about it. Treat it with antibiotics or different types of cleanings, and for HPV you at least know you have the active form of HPV in your mouth, which means you're at a much higher risk for oral cancers," said Koczarski.
If Bottjer were to test positive for the HPV virus, more frequent screenings, like the one using the velscope, would be in order. Unfortunately, the HPV saliva test cannot detect the virus when it's in the dormant stage. That's why Koczarski recommends annual screenings.
The HPV test costs $100. The gum disease tests run $150 apiece.
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