Leading UK dentist encourages patients with symptoms of mouth cancer to get checked out

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A leading UK dentist is urging patients who have symptoms of mouth cancer to get checked out, as routine dental services remain suspended. 

Although most practices are now up and running again, most are prioritising urgent cases and rescheduling treatments, which were cancelled during lockdown. For many, it is not yet possible to book a check-up. The loss of routine services is a worry for dentists, as check-ups include oral cancer screening as standard.

Dr Pretam Gharat explained that the incidence of mouth cancer will not have changed during the lockdown, but the number of referrals to hospitals has fallen significantly. Oral cancer is becoming more prevalent in the UK, but awareness remains poor, and most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Attending regular dental appointments can improve the chances of early detection and increase survival rates from around 50% to over 90%.

Dr Gharat said that some patients may be reluctant to seek help if they notice unusual symptoms because they don’t want to run the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a hospital or surgery setting or put more pressure on NHS services. The message from dentists and doctors is that the NHS is open for patients who don’t need treatment or care for the virus. If patients spot signs, such as red or white patches in the mouth or throat, abnormal lumps or swelling or slow-healing mouth ulcers, Dr Gharat recommends making an appointment with a GP as soon as possible.

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