Mouth cancer checks DO happen, say dentists

A report revealing an alarming number of dental patients going without mouth cancer checks has prompted a tide of protest from dentists throughout the UK.

The survey revealed that 71% of people said their dentist had never checked them for the condition.

And 87% said their dentist had never even spoken to them about it.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), said: ‘Mouth cancer is a very serious condition.

‘It kills more than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined, and yet a staggering 23% of people have never even heard of it.

‘The problem here appears to be twofold. First, not enough dentists are carrying out the checks, and second, those that do carry them out are failing to communicate this to their patients, missing a perfect opportunity to educate them on the dangers of mouth cancer.

‘NHS dentists are expected to carry out dental check-ups in a very short space of time, and it appears that many do not feel they have the time to carry out this important activity.’

The National Mouth Cancer Survey questioned 500 adults across 10 UK cities in April 2008 and was conducted by the BDHF and Medicash.

However, Dr Gill, a partner at Dean Road Dental Practice in South Shields, said: ‘It is something that is done, but not said.

‘When having a good look around the mouth, we look for these things. It is what we do. It is part of our job.’

Dr Gill has only come across three cases of mouth cancer in the 15 years he has been qualified.

He added: ‘It is not something you see often, but it is on the increase due to alcohol and smoking, and that is a concern. We check every patient, full stop.’

Dr Amarjit Gill, who works at a practice in Nottingham, said: ‘I’m sure dentists are checking, but maybe just not telling the patient.

‘The important thing for patients is to feel empowered and ask if they are worried about anything.

‘When you use the word ‘cancer’ with people, it sends shockwaves.’

Dr Gill said all his patients knew he checked for the disease and made them aware of it.

Mouth cancer kills one in two people that develop the condition but with early detection survival chances increase to nine out of ten.

Dentists are trained to spot the early signs of mouth cancer that can include ulcers that do not heal, lumps and red or white patches in the mouth.

Self-examination can also be beneficial.

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