Sponsorship and support for mouth cancer

Catherine Rutland explains what it means for Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, to be a returning sponsor of this year’s Mouth Cancer Action Month taking place throughout November.

For more than 20 years, Denplan has been proud to sponsor Mouth Cancer Action Month, working in collaboration with the Oral Health Foundation. 

For more than two decades, we have sought to raise awareness of the dangers of oral cancers amongst the public. Also, more recently amongst policy makers in Whitehall. 

Representing more than 6,500 member dentists and serving 1.4 million patients provides Denplan with a wide platform. This enables them to help spread understanding and awareness of mouth cancer. Not least the importance of early detection that can significantly increase survival rates.

We know from the experiences of our member dentists and patients how this issue impacts people’s lives. It requires far more attention than it has historically received. 

As dental teams, we are in a unique position to spot symptoms of mouth cancer. By raising awareness of the disease, the risk factors, and symptoms, we can help to save lives. That is why we share the Oral Health Foundation’s commitment to raising awareness of this disease. As dental professionals, we share the Oral Health Foundation’s values centred around preventive dentistry. The annual Mouth Cancer Action Month is the best example of these values in action.

Did you know?

According to the Oral Health Foundation, there are more than 640,000 cases of mouth cancer diagnosed each year worldwide and it is the 11th most common cancer. There are, on average, 8,700 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.

Common sign and symtoms include:

  • Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks
  • Red and white patches in the mouth
  • Lumps or swelling in the mouth or head and neck area
  • Any persistent hoarseness.

Mouth cancer can strike in a number of places, including the lips, tongue, gums and cheeks. 

Better lifestyle choices, earlier diagnosis and improved access to dentistry during the pandemic are some of the key challenges in confronting mouth cancer.

Raising awareness

We have worked with the Oral Health Foundation over the last two decades. We’ve delivered a wide range of activities and events during Mouth Cancer Action Month. 

Together, we have worked to raise awareness of the campaign in partnership with our member dentists. They have communicated directly with their patients to promote the proactive preventive measures that could potentially save lives.  

From mouth cancer webinar series to MP parliamentary outreach programmes in recent years, we have also created excellent toolkits and resources for our practices. This way, they can highlight symptoms of the disease to their patients. 

These resources have been used in thousands of practices all around the country. Many of our Denplan practices have used the campaign as an annual occasion to fundraise for the cause. 

The campaign itself has proven to be an important resource for dental practice. It’s an opportunity utilised by many of our member practices to speak to their patients about this important issue.

Pandemic environment

Last year, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we understandably had to do things a little differently. We had to learn to adapt to the new pandemic environment of socially distanced interactions. 

This meant less face-to-face events, such as the annual parliamentary event in Westminster, and more virtual events and online resources. Once again this year, together with the Oral Health Foundation, we will be providing a variety of resources for dental practices. They will be able to download practice posters, a campaign toolkit, and social media posts from their Denplan marketing portal. Or, via their private Denplan dentist dashboard and use these to communicate with their patients and local communities.  

Following our successful mouth cancer webinar series last year, we will be launching a new multidisciplinary online conference together with some of our dental partners to coincide with Mouth Cancer Action Month. 

The webinars underscore the fact that Mouth Cancer Awareness Month is just as much an opportunity to enhance our knowledge and improve our practices as dental professionals, as it is to raise awareness amongst our patients.

Constructive engagement 

Despite the pandemic, last year’s Action Month proved to be a great success in difficult circumstances. Combined with our joint MP engagement activities with the Oral Health Foundation, the above activities proved to be a great resource for dental professionals who, as every year, continue to be the backbone of Mouth Cancer Action Month by utilising its resources within their daily practice work and engaging constructively with patients to spot the early signs of mouth cancer and ultimately save lives.

However, mouth cancer rates continue to rise in the adult population. We know that during the pandemic, many cases of mouth cancer have gone undiagnosed due to people being unable to access regular dentistry. 

In addition to this, recent erroneous statements from a government minister about the ‘ad hoc’ role dentistry plays in mouth cancer detection have served to underline the worrying deficit in understanding of mouth cancer that persists and, therefore, also demonstrates the vital importance of this campaign. 

That is why Mouth Cancer Action Month 2021 will prove to be so important to helping dentists overcoming the disruption of the pandemic. It will help with getting back on top of the rising caseloads of oral cancers.

Renewed focus

This year, Denplan is once again proud to renew its partnership with the Oral Health Foundation to sponsor Mouth Cancer Action Month, running throughout November. The widespread uptake in COVID-19 vaccines and the subsequent relaxation of pandemic restriction measures means that we can expand our activities in a way that we were unable to do in 2020. 

This November we are planning to make outreach to MPs and policy makers a key part of our campaign’s activities. Taking advantage of the return to an in-person parliament, Denplan and the Oral Health Foundation plan to host a parliamentary ‘drop-in’ at the Palace of Westminster. Members of Parliament and Peers will engage with the campaign and learn more about mouth cancer. 

This will be an exciting opportunity to bring our campaign’s message to the heart of government. It will improve understanding of the issue amongst those whose decisions impact patients’ lives from a policy standpoint.

Policy proposals

In addition to this, we are working closely with the Oral Health Foundation to put together a ‘Mouth Cancer Charter’. We hope MPs and government ministers will sign up. The charter will set out key policy ideas designed to improve the current state of mouth cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

By setting out several policy proposals, and asking MPs to commit to carrying them forward, we hope to improve outcomes for our patients. We want to make progress in tackling mouth cancer by bringing Westminster’s attention to this pressing issue.

After a more limited Mouth Cancer Action Month last November, I am excited to be part of our extensive activities this year. 

I know many readers will share my passion for this particular issue. I encourage you all to take part in Mouth Cancer Action Month by continuing to engage with patients. Speak to colleagues and make sure that we put mouth cancer at the top of the agenda. Not just in November, but all year round.    

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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