During a routine appointment, a dental hygienist noticed that her patient had a strange looking spot on their tongue. This was later diagnosed as being cancerous, resulting in treatment taking place. Miraculously, the man has been able to make a full recovery. But this case underlines the importance of attending regular dental appointments – they can be lifesaving!

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While a trip to the dentist is of crucial importance, it is unusual for it to be lifesaving. However, for one man, his trip to the dentist led to the discovery of a cancerous spot on his tongue – potentially saving his life.

During his check-up, a dental hygienist noticed the spot and due to early detection, it was able to be treated successfully. His dental hygienist has been praised for her efforts.

The discovery

Jonathan Teghtmeyer from Edmonton drove to Petrolia Dental in April 2022 for a routine dental hygienist appointment [1]. Teghtmeyer would normally attend these twice per year.

During the check-up, his dental hygienist Vaishali Brotschi noticed a spot on Teghtmeyer’s tongue. While spots are often innocuous, they always warrant investigation.

When quizzed about the spot, Teghtmeyer said that he believed it was a canker sore [1]. Moreover, he said that while it was occasionally sore, this wasn’t persistent.

Teghtmeyer said he would “feel some sort of sensitivity” in the area once every few weeks [1]. Other than this though, Teghtmeyer had very little worries about the spot. In fact, Teghtmeyer commented that to his untrained eye, he “couldn’t tell much of a difference” between the two sides of his tongue [1].

Brotschi, like all dental hygienists, is trained to screen for oral cancer during appointments. Therefore, when she looked at the spot in greater detail, she realized something was wrong.

Brotschi noticed that the spot was discoloured and had irregular borders, which are known warning signs for cancer [1]. Therefore, Brotschi recommended that Teghtmeyer visited a doctor about the spot.


In May 2022, Teghtmeyer had a biopsy. Then, in June 2022, an oral pathologist diagnosed Teghtmeyer with a type of cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma [1].

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer [2]. Symptoms include sores, rough patches in the mouth, spots or a raised area on an old scar or ulcer [2].

The key symptom of the spot on the tongue helped Brotschi to realize that there might be a problem. This type of cancer can affect the mouth, throat and lungs.

While Teghtmeyer was concerned, he said that he “maintained some composure”, which was helped by the fact that he had been told by the pathologist that the condition was treatable [1].


Teghtmeyer was told that due to the early detection, treatment was possible. The treatment would involve cutting the spot out and then sewing it back up, allowing him to go on with his life as normal [1].

However, there were risks involved. Surgeons told Teghtmeyer that he may have difficulty with speaking and swallowing following the surgery [1]. If not treated, it can be life-threatening.

In August 2022, Teghtmeyer had an intensive surgery at the University of Alberta Hospital, which lasted 14 hours – highlighting the potential seriousness of the situation [1].

Teghtmeyer mentioned that “approximately a quarter of the right side” of his tongue was cut out. To restore the tongue, a flap of skin which included a vein and an artery were taken from his own arm [1].

Teghtmeyer’s recovery

Following the surgery, Teghtmeyer spent 10 days in hospital, attached to approximately 10 tubes. Moreover, to aid his recovery, Teghtmeyer had a feeding tube in his nose and a tracheotomy to help him breathe [1].

Teghtmeyer miraculously made a full recovery. He is able to speak and eat without any problems, although he did require a few sessions of speech therapy.

Teghtmeyer also did not need any further treatment due to follow-up tests on his lymph nodes coming back clear [1]. However, Teghtmeyer has now started attending a dental clinic every three months in order for more monitoring to take place.

Teghtmeyer thanked Brotschi by giving her two drinking glasses with the word “Superhero” on them [1]. He is very grateful for Brotschi – who potentially saved his life.

Brotschi says that the case makes her emotional, but she does say that it was “very cool” to be able to identify the problem [1]. Crucially, as Brotschi says – “he’s still here” [1].

Teghtmeyer says that he only attended the dentist because he “wanted to have nice-looking teeth” [1]. However, as this case shows, dentists and dental hygienists offer so much more than just checking the oral health of their patients.

Thinking points…

[1] This article helps to remind us of the importance of attending regular dental appointments! Had Teghtmeyer not attended an appointment, he may not still be alive today. Therefore, make sure that you attend regular check-ups, as any problems can be identified by your dentist or dental hygienist. It is especially important to go if you haven’t had an appointment for a while, as early detection is crucial! We recommend booking an appointment now!

[2] Oral cancer is a type of cancer that some people are unaware of. But it is just as serious as other types of cancer. Therefore, remember to be vigilant with your mouth and notice any changes. The easiest way of problems being detected is through dental appointments. Remember to attend appointments regularly, because as this case has shown, they can be lifesaving!

What we offer at Taradale Dental

Taradale Dental is a Calgary dental clinic that provide its patients with a wide range of dental treatment options and advice aimed at improving their oral health.

It is very important to have excellent oral hygiene. This involves brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing regularly and eating healthily. Therefore, this should help your oral health.

We advise our patients to attend our Calgary dental clinic at least twice per year for a regular dental check-up. At these check-ups, we provide a comprehensive review of a patient’s oral health. If any problems are detected, we have many treatments available. For example, these include cavity fillings and root canals.

Here at Taradale Dental, we also have some cosmetic treatments available! These include dental implants, teeth whitening and Invisalign™! Many people find that these treatments have a positive impact on their appearance, confidence and self-esteem.

Moreover, all of our services at our Calgary dental clinic Taradale Dental are set in line with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide. This ensures transparent and fair pricing.

We hope to see you soon at our Taradale Dental clinic in Calgary! You can find out more about us by visiting our website https://taradaledental.ca.


[1] Verma, I. (2023). He wasn’t worried by the spot on his tongue. His dental hygienist thought it looked like cancer. Available: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/dental-cleaning-cancer-1.6849290. Last accessed: 3rd June 2023.

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2021). Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/squamous-cell-carcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20352480. Last accessed: 3rd June 2023.