Dental Teams Help Detect Oral Cancer

In recognition of Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April, the American Dental Association (ADA) reminds us that two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, regular dental visits are more important than ever. In fact, they could save lives. With the American Cancer Society estimating that 54,000 new cases of oral or oropharyngeal cancer will be diagnosed in 2022, oral cancer screening by the dental team can help catch oral cancer early, which contributes to better treatment outcomes.

New studies published in the Journal of the American Dental Association underscore the importance of regular dental visits in the prevention of the sixth most common cancer in the world—oral cancer. New research findings include:

  • Pandemic-driven behaviors—such as higher tobacco and alcohol use, poor diet, poor oral hygiene, and delayed dental care—may increase the risk of oral cancer. As a result, the study suggests more patients may be diagnosed at a later stage, making treatment more difficult.
  • Dentists screen for oral cancer nearly as often as they look for caries. A separate study conducted by the ADA Clinical Evaluators Panel finds 90% of surveyed dentists who perform risk assessments during regular patient check-ups screen for oral cancer.

Because dental teams routinely examine the mouth and throat—and they typically see patients more regularly than physicians—oral health professionals are well positioned to detect oral cancer and refer these individuals for further evaluation, thus increasing the chance for early intervention and more positive outcomes.

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