What Can You Do?

A routine part of each patient's dental visit and general medical examination should be a thorough head and neck examination. The dentist should be particularly vigilant in checking those who use tobacco or excessive amounts of alcohol.

  • Examine all your patients using the head and neck exam illustrated in this programme.
  • Take a history of their alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Identify patients at increased risk as a result of unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Target patients in the main risk groups.
  • Educate your patients of the association between tobacco use, alcohol use and oral cancer.
  • Follow-up to make sure a definitive diagnosis is obtained on any possible signs of oral cancer.

Tell patients what they need to know, so that they understand without being alarmed, is one of the biggest challenges in opportunistic screening. Written information can supplement verbal information very usefully but wordings need to be considered carefully.

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