Long waiting times to see a dentist may have contributed to an increase in mouth cancer deaths, according to experts. Data from the Oral Health Foundation reveals that in 2021, 3,000 people died from the disease, which is a 46% increase compared to a decade ago. The foundation warns that access to dentistry is in a dire state, and many individuals with mouth cancer will not receive a timely diagnosis. Neil Sikka, a dentist at Bupa Dental Care in London, explains that mouth ulcers that don’t heal, a hoarse voice, and unexplained lumps in the mouth are all warning signs of the disease. However, he emphasizes that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate mouth cancer but should be further investigated.
The main warning signs of mouth cancer include mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks. While most ulcers heal within two weeks, those that persist for longer, recur frequently, or grow larger near the back of the throat should be examined by a GP or dentist, according to the NHS.
Swelling or lumps in the mouth or jaw that cannot be explained may also be indicative of mouth cancer. These swellings can be painful and cause discomfort, as stated by Cancer Research UK.
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. Over 8,000 individuals receive this diagnosis each year.Every year, there are around 8,300 new cases of oral cancer in the UK, while the US sees approximately 55,000 cases annually.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of oral cancer, accounting for nearly 90 percent of cases.
Squamous cells are present in the skin’s surface tissue, including the mouth, arms, and legs.
The NHS identifies other common types of mouth cancer, such as adenocarcinoma (develops in salivary glands), sarcoma (abnormalities in bone, cartilage, muscle, or other tissue), oral malignant melanoma (cancer in skin pigment-producing cells), and lymphoma (growth from lymph gland cells).
The lump may appear on the tongue, mouth, lips, or gums, and less commonly on the salivary glands, tonsils, and pharynx.
Macmillan warns that these lumps can also manifest as thickening in the mouth or on the lip.
Red or white patches in the mouth can indicate cancerous changes.
These patches may become tender or painful if left untreated, potentially leading to mouth cancer.
Leukoplakia (white patches) and erythroplakia (red patches) should be evaluated by a doctor or dentist.
However, these patches can also be a result of a fungal infection called thrush, which can be distinguished by the white patches rubbing off and leaving a sore red patch underneath.
If anti-fungal treatment resolves the patches, they are not related to cancer.
Loose teeth without an obvious cause could be a sign of mouth cancer.
Adults should not experience wobbly teeth, so this symptom should not be ignored.
Tumors, lesions, cracking, and bleeding gums can contribute to loose teeth.
Mouth cancer patients may also have difficulty healing tooth sockets after extractions.
Even if not mouth cancer, a loose tooth could be due to gum disease or an impact injury, so it is advisable to consult a doctor or dentist for these symptoms.The number of adults who visited their dentist in the two years leading up to June 2023 was 18.1 million, an increase from 16.4 million in the previous 24 months ending in June 2022. However, this figure is still lower than the 21 million adults who saw their dentist in the two years leading up to June 2020.
Experts are concerned that long waiting times to see a dentist may have contributed to an increase in mouth cancer deaths. In 2021, mouth cancer claimed the lives of over 3,000 people. This highlights the potential impact of delayed dental care on overall health outcomes.
One of the symptoms of mouth cancer is difficulty swallowing food and drink. Cancer Research explains that the disease can cause pain while eating and a burning sensation when chewing and swallowing. It can also lead to a sensation of food being stuck in the throat, which may be due to a narrowing of the esophagus. These symptoms can result in a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss for individuals with mouth cancer.
Another sign of mouth cancer is a hoarse voice or difficulty speaking. Cancer Research UK notes that a person’s voice may become huskier or quieter, similar to when they have a cold. This can be indicative of hypopharynx cancer, which affects the back of the throat and potentially the vocal cords. Swelling in the mouth caused by a tumor can also lead to a lisp, difficulty pronouncing certain words, or slurring. If the cancer is located on the tongue, it can restrict movement and affect speech, leading to difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
It is crucial to prioritize regular dental check-ups and seek prompt medical attention if any concerning symptoms arise. Early detection and treatment of mouth cancer can significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications.A charity has warned that the dental crisis in the NHS is leading to an increase in deaths from mouth cancer. Dr. Emi Mawson, a dentist, shared her frustration with the system after finding oral cancer in a patient who had been unable to get an NHS dental appointment for years. She then went on to highlight the warning signs of mouth cancer and urged her followers to check their own mouths.
The charity’s warning comes as a result of the ongoing dental crisis in the NHS, which has led to long waiting times for dental appointments. This delay in diagnosis and treatment is particularly concerning for patients with mouth cancer, as early detection is crucial for successful treatment and survival.
Dr. Mawson’s experience with her patient highlights the urgent need for improvements in the dental care system. The lack of access to timely dental appointments can have serious consequences, as seen in this case of undiagnosed oral cancer. It is essential that the NHS addresses this issue and ensures that patients can receive the dental care they need in a timely manner.
Mouth cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, and early detection is key to improving outcomes. Dr. Mawson emphasized the importance of being aware of the warning signs of mouth cancer, such as persistent mouth ulcers, unexplained lumps or swellings, and red or white patches in the mouth. She urged her followers to regularly check their mouths and seek medical attention if they notice any concerning symptoms.
In conclusion, the dental crisis in the NHS is fueling a spike in deaths from mouth cancer. Dr. Mawson’s experience with her patient highlights the urgent need for improvements in the dental care system, as timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial for successful outcomes. It is essential that individuals are aware of the warning signs of mouth cancer and seek medical attention if they notice any concerning symptoms.
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