Mouth cancer deaths in the UK have been linked to a lack of access to dentists by The British Dental Association (BDA).
New data shows that there has been a 12% increase in mouth cancer in the UK in 2020/21 from the previous year with a total of 9,860 cases. In 2021, the disease killed more than 3,000 people in the UK, which is a 46% rise from a decade ago.
The BDA said there must be more than “radio silence” from Westminster as NHS dentistry in England awaits a promised recovery plan from the government.
Early detection of the disease is critical resulting in roughly a 90% survival rate; however, a late diagnosis lowers to a 50% survival rate.
The BDA chair Eddie Crouch said, “late detection can radically reduce your chances of survival, the access crisis millions face will inevitably cost lives” about the disease. “This condition causes more deaths than car accidents.”
The number of NHS dentists in England is at its lowest level in a decade. According to the BDA, there are 1,200 fewer dentists than before the pandemic and 90% of dental practices are not accepting new patients.
Most cases of mouth cancer are linked to high levels of smoking and heavy drinking, however, there is also a significant growth in cases of Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
However, the NHS is treating more people for earlier stages of cancer than ever before and has opened up 127 community diagnostic centers, an official from The Department of Health and Social Care said.
For some people in the UK, the only option is to use private healthcare to receive a diagnosis; a decision that others cannot afford.
The BBC talked to a jaw tumor patient, Ray Glendenning, who made the decision to go private after being unable to find an emergency appointment with the NHS. He paid £50 to see a private dentist and was diagnosed with a tumor.
"There was an NHS dentist taking on NHS patients - but there were 800 people on the waiting list, so basically waiting for people to die to take new patients on,” Glendenning said.
After receiving his diagnosis Glendenning had 16 hours of surgery to remove the tumour and spent six weeks recovering in hospital before receiving radiotherapy.
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