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Racetrack goers check their oral health, horses

Dr. Sharon Struminger, 65, of Farmingdale, instructs Michelle

Dr. Sharon Struminger, 65, of Farmingdale, instructs Michelle Guarascio, 31, and Chelsey Proffe, 22, on providing oral examinations to a patient at Belmont Park. Funded by the Queens County Dental Association, dentists and hygienists provided free screenings for oral cancer at the racetrack. (Oct. 5, 2012) Credit: Andrew Kozak

Michael Baynham quit smoking 10 years before he found a lump on his throat while shaving.

Baynham tried to ignore the lump but was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer in 2007 and spent four months going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Now, the 66-year-old Rockaway man gets regular oral examinations from his doctor to prevent any further damage to his body.

And, once a year, Baynham is able to get his mouth checked for cancerous spots at Belmont Park, where he works. On Friday, Baynam was among the 75 people who took advantage of the free oral examinations being performed by Dr. Robert Trager and his team of dentists and hygienists from Farmingdale State College.

“What we try to do is educate patrons, students and the public that oral cancer is one of the few cancers that has not had a decrease in mortality,” said Trager, 72, a member of the Queens County Dental Society.

The Queens County Dental Society funds the screenings, while supplies are donated by companies such as Melville-based Henry Schein. And any biopsies taken from patients are sent to labs like OralCDX in Suffern, N.Y., without any charge to the patient.

“Much of what we use is donated by vendors and companies like Henry Schein,” said James Garnett, the executive director of the Nassau Dental Association.

The stark white lab coats and light blue scrubs of Trager’s team, did stand out among the crowd of gamblers, but the annual event attracts some familiar faces each year.

“For me, getting tested is great. I get it every year” said Baynham. “It is a freebie and it’s right here at work.”

Trager also offers the oral exams at the Saratoga Race Course, the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and Hofstra University.

Activities like smoking, high alcohol consumption and drug use are all contributing factors to oral diseases, so when Trager started doing the free examinations 30 years ago, he wanted to focus on areas like race tracks and colleges.

“I do my screenings at venues that lend themselves to the lifestyle that causes oral cancers,” Trager said. “It’s unfortunate, but this is the type of venue where you find these actions.”

During Friday’s event, doctors took biopsies from two people, which is about average for the annual screening, according to Trager. If anything suspect is found, the patients are directed toward help, with or without insurance.

“Whether you have a dentist or not, they’ll get you treatment,” said Garnett. “No one is left without help.”

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