Dentist’s Emotional Plea for Oral Cancer Diagnosis
Long Wait for Dental Appointment Leads to Oral Cancer Diagnosis
A heartfelt plea has been made by a dentist in Cornwall, Dr. Emi Mawson, who revealed a distressing case where a patient was diagnosed with oral cancer after struggling for years to secure a dental appointment. The patient had complained of toothache and finally secured an appointment last month. During the examination, Dr. Mawson noticed signs of oral cancer, which were later confirmed through tests.
Frustration with the NHS Dental System
Dr. Mawson expressed her deep disappointment with the NHS dental system, feeling that it had let her patient down. She voiced concerns that people’s lives are at risk due to difficulties in accessing dental care. She urged the public to be vigilant and check their mouths for unusual symptoms such as lumps, bumps, swelling, and persistent red or white patches and ulcers.
Importance of Routine Oral Cancer Screenings
Routine dental appointments, which should occur every three months to two years depending on the patient, typically include screenings for oral cancer. These screenings are crucial because oral cancer symptoms are often painless or go unnoticed by patients. If any concerning signs are detected, patients can be referred to hospital specialists for further evaluation. Nearly half of mouth cancers are first identified through such screenings.
A Devastating Consequence of Delayed Care
In an urgent care appointment, Dr. Mawson encountered a patient who hadn’t seen a dentist for several years and presented with toothache. Her examination led to the discovery of oral cancer. The delay in accessing dental care had severe consequences, as early diagnosis is essential for successful treatment. When oral cancer is caught early, the survival rate can be as high as 85%, but many cases are only identified once the disease has progressed significantly.
Growing Concerns About Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a growing concern in the UK, with increasing numbers of cases even before the pandemic. Lack of recent data due to the pandemic has raised concerns that many cases may have gone undiagnosed. In addition to the challenges posed by delayed access to care, factors such as tobacco use, heavy drinking, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) contribute to the risk of developing oral cancer.
Calls for Action in a Struggling NHS Dentistry System
NHS dentistry is facing a crisis, with a severe shortage of dentists and long waiting lists for appointments. The number of NHS dentists has reached its lowest point in a decade, and most practices are not accepting new adult NHS patients. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, with many dentists considering a transition to private practice due to financial constraints and limited government support.
The British Dental Association (BDA) has called for fundamental changes in the NHS dental contract, highlighting the need for reform. While a recovery plan was promised in April, it has yet to be published by the government. The situation is dire, leaving patients with limited options, including paying high private fees, enduring untreated dental issues, or attempting DIY dental procedures.
Recognizing Oral Cancer Symptoms
Early detection of oral cancer is crucial for effective treatment. Dr. Mawson urged people to check for any unusual signs in their mouths, including lumps, bumps, swellings, persistent red or white patches, or non-healing ulcers. For those without a dentist, emergency dental services are available in every county for individuals concerned about potential oral health issues.
Understanding the Cost of NHS Dentistry
NHS dentistry is provided in three charge bands, ranging from basic examinations and advice to more complex procedures such as fillings and extractions. Private dental care can also come with a significant cost, making access to dental services a financial concern for many individuals. The state of NHS dentistry in the UK is described as “totally unacceptable in the 21st century,” according to a recent inquiry by the Health and Social Care Committee. Fundamental changes are needed to address the crisis in dental care.
In conclusion, the plea from Dr. Emi Mawson highlights the urgent need for improvements in the NHS dental system, as delays in accessing care can have devastating consequences for patients, particularly in cases of oral cancer.