‘Grateful’ woman returns to dentist to tell hygienist she saved her life

A woman’s dental appointment took an unexpected turn when the hygienist noticed a lump.

One month later, Christine Lee shared the moment she went back to the dental office to tell Nicole Aceto that it was cancer.

Lee, 52, from Hartford, Connecticut, told Newsweek: “I wanted to thank her for finding it and showcase to others that dental care IS health care and to never skip a cleaning.”

The touching moment was shared to TikTok (@si_que_what) on May 20. Lee can be heard breaking the devastating news from behind the camera while recording Aceto’s reaction—she instantly hugs Lee and states she had been thinking about her. At the time of writing, the video had amassed 1.7 million views.

Two screenshots from the viral video of Aceto, the dental hygienist, finding out about the diagnosis.

Christine Lee/TikTok/@si_que_what

In the caption, Lee points out, “She saved my life,” and then explains that she was first diagnosed with B cell lymphoma which is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes in 2020. She went into remission the following year, however, it is now back.

“I know early because of Nicole,” told Lee. “During a routine cleaning, she was doing a sweep of my mouth with her finger and found a lump on my lower gum line. She stopped the cleaning and took me over to the panoramic X-ray and there was a mass in the imaging.”

Lee is due to have another round of chemotherapy on May, 23.

Christine Lee

Lee explained that she went to see an oncologist in December 2023 as she felt like there was a problem with her jaw, however nothing was picked up. Her appointment with Aceto was in April.

She told Newsweek: “It’s strange, I could feel something bothering me but I couldn’t feel a lump.

“There was no numbness or tingling and no real symptoms other than a hunch I had and a slight feeling I had in my jaw.”

According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

The Importance Of Regular Dental Appointments

Aceto emphasized to Newsweek the significance of regular dental checkups, pointing out that they encompass much more than “just a cleaning.”

She said: “Oral cancer screenings and head and neck exams are critical for early detection, and in Christine’s case was essential to her diagnosis. Dental visits include a periodontal assessment to evaluate the health of your gums and bone around the teeth.

“The dental team takes X-rays to help detect cavities, infections and other abnormalities in the teeth. The goal of the dental hygienist and dentist is to provide necessary care to get our patients to health, along with the education and tools to maintain this in their day to day. Often the mouth is seen as a separate entity to the rest of the body when it is actually a window to the inside.”

On May 16, after biopsies and further testing, Lee was diagnosed with cancer and will now start chemotherapy. Her tumor is 5.6 cm in size.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2024, approximately 80,620 Americans will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including 44,590 males and 36,030 females. This figure encompasses both adults and children.

Lee told Newsweek: “I was just so grateful to Nicole for validating what I had felt back in December. I knew something was up but all the tests showed I was still fine.”

TikTok Reacts

So far, the video has over 219,000 likes and more than 820 comments.

“You beat it once you’ll beat it again especially she found it early!” said one user.

Another wrote: “I am so sorry. I had no idea that it could be detected in the mouth. This is completely 100% news to me.”

A third commenter said: “Ugh I wish more of my patients listened like you did. Most of the time they question why I’m doing extra [because] they just want a cleaning. So happy you found it early, wishing you health.”

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