15 Jul

Dental association urges ministers to review guidelines to enable practices to relaunch oral cancer screening

The British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD) is encouraging ministers to review guidelines to enable dental practices to offer oral cancer screening.

The BAPD carried out a straw poll of members last week to gather information about screening and referrals. Of the 755 participants, 676 admitted that they had experienced issues in referring patients from primary to secondary care. 

Jason Smithson, co-founder of the association, suggested that there could be multiple reasons for delays and problems, but claimed that there are common themes running through responses. Following on from the straw poll, the BAPD has now compiled a more comprehensive survey, which will serve to provide more information about the current situation. 

Research indicates that the pandemic could have resulted in over 24,000 missed cancer diagnoses in the UK, with screening suspended and people who may have symptoms reluctant to see a doctor or dentist during lockdown. At the beginning of June, Cancer Research UK revealed that 2.5 million people had been affected by the Coronavirus lockdown as a result of temporary pauses in screening, diagnostic testing and treatment. Additional data indicated that a further 2 million people were currently waiting for breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening. 

Oral cancer is becoming more prevalent in the UK, but many patients are still unaware of the signs and symptoms, and this is why routine dental checks are so important. Dentists are trained to identify symptoms and they can refer patients for further tests if they have suspicions. With patients currently unable to make use of routine services, there is a real worry that oral cancer cases will go undetected. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the chances of survival by up to 90 percent.