27 May

Could the Covid-19 crisis contribute to a spike in oral cancer cases?

A new survey suggests that British people are snacking more during lockdown. 

A well-known figure in the dental industry has suggested that the Covid-19 crisis could lead to a spike in mouth cancer cases. Sam Waley-Cohen, former jockey and owner of Portman Dental Care, has called for practices to be allowed to reopen to enable patients to access routine services. 

Mr Waley-Cohen has urged the government to open practices as soon as possible to prevent a sharp rise in dental issues, including late diagnoses for mouth cancer patients and a deterioration in oral health standards among children.

Mouth cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, and it is becoming increasingly prevalent, with rates rising rapidly. In the last decade alone, the number of people diagnosed has almost doubled. One of the main risks associated with oral cancer in the UK is that most patients notice symptoms at a late stage when treatment is less likely to be successful. Routine dental checks are an instrumental part of keeping track of changes in the mouth and identifying early warning signs. Early detection increases survival rates by up to 90 percent.

Mr Waley-Cohen has been outspoken in his criticism of the government’s handling of dentistry during the crisis, and he has called for ministers to reopen high street dentists now to prevent widespread problems in the months and years to come. 

At the moment, there is fierce debate raging, with some dentists eager to return to work, and others keen to wait until it is safer to open practices and resume routine services. While high street surgeries are shut to the public, patients are able to access emergency care through a network of hubs that has been set up by the NHS. 

If patients are worried about changes in the mouth or they notice symptoms like red or white patches in the mouth or throat, abnormal lumps or swelling or slow-healing mouth ulcers, they are advised to contact their GP.