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The Dental Visit That Could Save Your Life

As patients are less likely to visit their dental practice, dentists have warned that a high number of oral cancers could be missed or diagnosed at a very late stage.

Prof. Leo Stassen, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and president of the Irish Dental Association, has warned that late diagnosis will become a nationwide issue as the country emerges from lockdown.

During the lockdown, Stassen identified two cases of oral cancer using photographs his patients had sent him. However, many patients do not recognize or do not act on symptoms for oral cancer because they are either concerned about possible infection with SARS-CoV-2 or unaware that emergency dental services have continued to operate . Before the pandemic, dentists helped to discover between 150 and 180 cases of mouth, head and neck cancers each year, noted Stassen.

Cases of oral cancer caught at an early stage have a survival rate of approximately 90% and may only require surgery. However, cases caught at a later stage of development have a decreased survival rate of only 5%–10%. Check-ups are important not only for those patients who have developed symptoms during the pandemic but also for those who have recovered from the disease. This is in order to make sure that the cancer has not returned.


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