Dentists play a vital role in detection of oral cancer

The dental profession was disappointed to hear of the statement made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social care, Jo Churchill, in response to a question posed by Labour MP Peter Dowd around the benefits of regular dental check-ups in ensuring early diagnosis of oral cancer.

Dentists play a vital role in detection of oral cancer

Andy Edwards, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery

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The dental profession was disappointed to hear of the statement made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social care, Jo Churchill, in response to a question posed by Labour MP Peter Dowd around the benefits of regular dental check-ups in ensuring early diagnosis of oral cancer.

Her reply “while dentists can play an ad hoc role in detecting potential oral cancers as a by-product of dental check-ups, oral cancer is primarily detected through the medical systems.”

The College’s Faculty of Dental Surgery feels that she has been misinformed and is concerned at the way the role of the profession has been highlighted.

Mouth cancer remains a significant health concern with over 8,700 people diagnosed last year. Approximately seven people per day lose their life to mouth cancer in the UK. Early diagnosis is the key to survival with early detection improving survival from 50% to 90%. All dental care professionals who examine the oral cavity are trained in recognising the signs of oral cancer which is an integral part of the patient’s dental visit.

We know with dental practices closed for a period of over 2 months that ten million patients missed out on appointments with a reported reduction in cancer referrals dropping by 65%.

To state that they have an “ad hoc role” has caused significant offence and downplays the vital role dental care professionals have in patient prevention, education, and recognition of mouth cancer.

We hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social care reflects on her statement and offers to clarify her comments.

Andrew I Edwards

Dean Faculty of Dental Surgery

Vice President

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow


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