Published on October 3, 2012

Dentists urged to check for mouth cancer

With the NHS Stoptober promotion well on its way the government’s battle to stop smoking is fresh in our minds.

Health professionals across the country have long been campaigning for smokers to quit and now dentists are being urged to play their role.

Regular dental check-ups provide a great, and often missed opportunity for dentists to spot the first signs of oral cancer and help patients quit smoking. All dental professionals are now being urged to ask those all important questions about their patients’ lifestyle. If early signs of smoking and drinking are picked up by dentists this can help prevent devastating effects of oral cancer.

As Hazel Nunn, Cancer Research UK’s head of health evidence and information, explains: “Dental teams are in a unique position to help detect oral cancer in its earlier stages when it’s easier to treat and the outlook is greatly improved.

“If a dentist is looking at someone’s teeth and knows this person smokes 50 cigarettes a day and drinks well above the recommended amount, he might look that extra bit more carefully.”

The GDC (General Dental Council) currently support these plans and have recommended dentists take part in oral cancer detection checks but the procedure is not compulsory. The GDC hope to change this to a mandatory requirement which is undergoing review.

For now, dental professionals are encouraged to check patients’ mouths for any signs of oral cancer in the wider push for preventative dentistry.

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