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Public largely unaware of dentists’ responsibilities

New research has shown that the public is generally unaware of the many oral health issues that dentists can help with rather than doctors.

A survey of 2,000 people revealed that 33 per cent are unaware that dentists can check for general oral health issues not relating to teeth.

The survey, conducted by OnePoll for the British Dental Health Foundation, also found that 60 per cent of people do not know that dentists can check for mouth cancer.

This news comes as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, which aims to educate people about the causes and risks of mouth cancer. It is hoped that this campaign will help to clear up these misunderstandings about the roles of dentists in diagnosing mouth cancer.

Members of the British public are being urged to get checked for mouth cancer, but also to talk to their dentists while they are there so they are fully informed of what mouth cancer is and how to avoid it.

Dr Henry Clover, deputy chief dental advisor at Denplan, said: “The five year survival rate of mouth cancer patients is just 50 per cent. But early diagnosis gives patients a 90 per cent chance of survival. It is vital that all of us as healthcare professionals work with our patients to increase awareness of this killer disease.”

Dentists can help out with Mouth Cancer Action Month by doing their best to inform patients about what mouth cancer is, and encouraging them to get checked. This could include putting up posters in waiting rooms, or handing out leaflets.

The symptoms that patients should look out for are “ulcers which do not heal after three weeks, red and white patches or unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth”, according to Dr Clover.

Mouth cancer has four main causes, which are smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol to excess, a poor diet and contracting the human papillomavirus, which is often transmitted through oral sex.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the BDHF, said: “More than 7,600 people developed mouth cancer in 2011, an increase of 50 per cent since the turn of the millennium. Figures will only continue to rise if risk factors and symptoms are unknown.”

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