Philip Lewis explains the impact the COVID lockdown is having on mouth cancer and why it’s essential patients return to the practice.
As president of the Mouth Cancer Foundation, do you have any current statistics on mouth cancer for the UK? What is the risk of having mouth cancer?
The latest figures we have show more than 8,000 new diagnoses each year. And nearly 3,000 deaths.
The really scary statistic is that the incidence of mouth cancer has increased more than 60% in the last 10 years.
Someone in the UK dies from mouth cancer about every three hours.
An individual’s risk is increased by smoking or the use of tobacco in any form. And regular drinking of alcohol, especially spirits.
Traditionally, most cases have been among men of advancing age. But recently many cases among younger people are associated with some strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Other things that increase risk include poor nutrition and social deprivation. But a significant number of sufferers show no identifiable risk factors.
That’s why it’s so important for all adults to get checked regularly.
How critical is it to diagnose mouth cancer early?
Early detection saves lives!
It doesn’t only save lives, it saves the quality of life both for sufferers and everyone around them.
For survivors, mouth cancer is life changing. Everyday things like tasting food, going out for a meal, speaking, swallowing or even opening the mouth can become real challenges.
The changes in social activity and the apprehension during treatment and afterwards affects friends and loved ones too.
If mouth cancer is caught early we can often treat it far less aggressively than if it is discovered later.
This minimises the after effects and so greatly improves the outcomes for everyone involved.
What has been your view on the past lockdown in terms of patients not being able to access dentists?
The lockdown was very unfortunate. It prevented dentists from carrying out general examinations, which include examinations for the early detection of mouth cancer.
All sorts of dental conditions deteriorated during the period. I’ve no doubt some individuals must have missed out on early diagnosis of malignancy.
Even after lockdown some patients were reluctant to attend their dental practices. So it’s vital everyone is reassured that through the precautions we’re taking dental practices are very safe places to be.
It’s also vital we avoid any more nationwide lockdowns and keep dental practices open. So that we can continue to provide our preventative services.
How important is it for patients to have dental practices remaining open this autumn/winter and beyond?
Very important indeed, for all the reasons I’ve already explained.
It would be a disaster if our patients were again subjected to the sort of restrictions they had to endure during the last lockdown.
Also, we now know so much more about COVID and its transmission. We are able to create dental environments that are very safe to visit.
What would you say to your peers?
To my peers I’d say: ‘Well done!’
We’re all in this together and I know the whole profession is making massive efforts to adapt to the new challenges and come out stronger and safer than ever.
Align Technology published results of a new survey. It reveals the measures taken and challenges faced by the dental profession during and after the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the report, drawn from a number of independent sources by Align Technology, the dental profession has risen to the challenge of treating patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased safety measures and a rise in virtual consultations, compared with pre-COVID-19 times.
The report finds that closing practices during a potential second wave in the autumn could be detrimental to patient health.
In a survey of dentists, therapists, hygienists and nurses, 96% stated that lockdown had an adverse impact on the nation’s oral health. And emphasised the need for greater access to affordable dental care.
In addition, 88% of dental health experts say the UK’s dental health could decline. This is due to a lack of routine appointments leading to preventative dental issues getting worse.
Those professionals surveyed suggest we are missing opportunities to identify mouth cancer. This may cause significant long-term health issues.
More than three quarters (77%) are especially worried we will miss oral cancers, and not refer them onwards.
Further, 1,700 members of the British Association of Private Dentists (BAPD) concur. Nearly 97% of those surveyed are performing fewer mouth cancer screens per day in comparison to pre lockdown.
Align Technology has committed $1 million to the Align Foundation. This is to source and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supply donations. As well as making cash donations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe.
It is also using its 3D printing technology and manufacturing expertise to produce face shields and medical swaps to support the fight against COVID-19.
In addition, the company is supporting campaigns to help dentists and dentistry. This is through sharing best practice, cooperating with leading associations, providing practical support for organisations and developing technologies to support the profession. It includes introducing virtual solutions to connect doctors and patients.
Visit www.aligntech.com for more information.
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