The owner of a dental practice chain dubbed the continued suspension of dentistry ‘inexplicable’ over fears it could lead to a spike in deaths linked to mouth cancer.
Sam Waley-Cohen, the chief executive of Portman Dental Care, has spoken out as private dentists continue to see their income plummet to zero in response to the pandemic.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, he said the hygiene standards within dental surgeries are ‘higher than many hospitals’.
He warned deaths associated with mouth cancer could rise as a result of closed practices.
His comments were welcomed by the Mouth Cancer Foundation, which is urging the public to examine themselves regularly at home.
Delays in diagnosis
Mahesh Kumar is a maxillofacial surgeon and an ambassador of the charity. He said dental access troubles could potentially delay the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancers.
‘We understand the reason why dental practices are not currently open,’ he said.
‘The increased risk with aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) in dental surgeries subject the dental team, and possibly the patient, to potential transmission of the virus.
‘Currently, there are also difficulties accessing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) as it is being diverted to hospitals and care homes.
‘However, mouth cancer is often detected by dental surgeons as well as general medical practitioners.
‘Reducing the access to a professional group such as dentists may in the short-term cause anxiety to the public. It could also potentially delay diagnosis and treatment of oral cancers.’
Spike in mouth cancer
Statistics show new cases of mouth cancer in the UK stand at more than 8,300 each year. This is an increase of 49% in the last decade.
This is according to the State of Mouth Cancer UK report 2018/2019.
Dentist and president of the Mouth Cancer Foundation, Philip Lewis, said it is ‘essential’ mouth cancer is found and treated as early as possible.
‘It’s great to see an industry leader drawing attention to the need for regular examinations for the early detection of mouth cancer,’ he said.
‘Sadly, it is likely to be many weeks before practices can again offer routine appointments. That’s why it’s so important people continue to examine themselves at home.
‘If you find anything you think is suspicious, call your dentist for further advice. It’s essential that mouth cancer is discovered and treated early.’
Find out more about Dentistry’s Back to Practice campaign.