Mouth cancer – consultant reports spike after dental access troubles

A leading consultant has seen an increase in signs of mouth cancer due to early signs being missed due to the pandemicA leading consultant has seen an increase in signs of mouth cancer because early indications are missed due to the pandemic.

Matthew Garrett – dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons – said changes to the way patients have been seen over the pandemic has led to higher risks of oral complications.

According to The Times, Garrett said virtual and telephone consultations means it is hard for clinicians to detect ‘subtle changes to soft tissue’ in the mouth that could be cancerous.

As a result, he said ‘anecdotally’ that patients are presenting with more advance oral cancer.

Drop in detection

This comes as dental attendance data shows dental visits in the last quarter of 2020 dropped by seven million.

Across the pandemic, there has been significant concerns regarding the lack of detection when it comes to mouth cancer. This followed the two and a half month closure of dental practices during the first lockdown.

Latest data from Healthwatch England reveals the key obstacles when it comes to patient access to dental care, which is still taking a hit 12 months on.

Looking at public complaints between October to December 2020, the watchdog found that access to dentistry remained difficult for more than seven in 10 people (72%).

Patient feedback

Other findings include:

  • Delays in treatment times, which some patients cited were anywhere between two months and two years for an appointment
  • Others called more than 40 dental practices in a bid to find an NHS dentist
  • Patients resorted to pulling out their own teeth as a result of access troubles.

Additionally, nearly three in five (58%) expressed negative views about dentistry, compared to 51% in the preceding three months.

On the other hand, there was an increase in the level of positive feedback regarding dentistry. For example, more than one in 10 (12%) said something positive. This compared to one in 25 (4%) between July and September 2020.


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