Is opportunistic oral cancer screening by dentists feasible? An analysis of the patterns of dental attendance of a nationally representative sample over 10 years

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2006


To assess whether or not opportunistic oral cancer screening by dentists to detect pre-malignant or early cancer lesions is feasible. The objective was to analyse the patterns of dental attendance of a national representative sample over a period of 10 years to ascertain whether individuals at high-risk of oral cancer would be accessible for opportunistic oral cancer screening. METHODS: Secondary analysis of data extracted from the British Household Panel Survey, a national longitudinal survey (n=5547). Analysis to ascertain whether patterns of attendance for dental check-ups for a period of 10 years (1991-2001) were associated with risk factors for oral cancer such as age, sex, education, social class, smoking status and smoking intensity. RESULTS: Males, aged over 40 years, less educated manual workers and smokers were significantly less likely to attend for dental check-ups compared with females and younger, higher educated, higher socio-economic class non-smokers (p < 0.05). Throughout the 10-year period, young people, more than older people, had progressively lower odds ratios of attending. Those with more education used dental services more. Heavy smokers were infrequent attendees. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that opportunistic oral cancer screening by dentists is not feasible to include high-risk groups as they are not regular attendees over 10 years. Those who would be screened would be the low-risk groups. However, dentists should continue screening all patients as oral precancers are also found in regular attendees. More should be done to encourage the high-risk groups to visit their dentists.

Published in

Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry


Volume: 4 (3):165-171



not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only



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