Dental chain owner issues warning over mouth cancer spike if practices remain closed

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Sam Waley-Cohen, the owner of Portman Dental Care, has issued a warning over a spike in mouth cancer cases if practices in the UK remain closed.

Mr Waley-Cohen, a former jockey, established the chain 11 years ago. Speaking in a press interview, Mr Waley-Cohen suggested that the current closures were ‘inexplicable’ and called for the government to reopen surgeries in a bid to prevent increases in mouth cancer diagnoses in the future. The number of cases of oral cancer in the UK was rising steadily prior to the pandemic, and there are real concerns about patients missing out on routine appointments and being unable to see their dentist.

Oral cancer checks are part of routine dental check-ups and dentists play a crucial role in identifying early symptoms. Early diagnosis can improve survival chances by up to 90 percent. While dental clinics are closed, GP services are still up and running. Patients who have symptoms of mouth cancer, including abnormal lumps or swelling in the mouth or throat, slow-healing mouth ulcers, unexplained oral pain, difficulty swallowing and red or white patches in the mouth, are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with their GP. 

The government recently announced tentative plans to ease the country out of lockdown, but as yet, there are no dates for practice reopening. As well as putting patients at risk of having cases of mouth diagnosed at a later stage, Mr Waley-Cohen has also suggested that keeping surgeries closed puts children at risk of decay and increases the chances of patients developing oral infections, which could have a negative impact on nutrition. 

According to Mr Waley-Cohen, dental practices are among the safest places members of the public could go to at the moment, given that staff already use PPE and stringent infection control measures are already in place. 

For the moment, UK clinics will remain closed and patients can access emergency care through local urgent dental care hubs. Updates are expected in the coming days and weeks. 

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