Background Oral cancer prognosis can be greatly improved with early detection which can be achieved through opportunistic screening by a dental professional. In the absence of a national screening programme individuals need to access dental care regularly to allow for such screening. Known risk factors for oral cancer include age, male gender, smoking and higher alcohol consumption. The aim of this study was to use large scale, national cross-sectional data to assess the relationship between high risk oral cancer patients, dental attendance and self-reported oral status.
Methods Data from the SLÁN 2007 dataset of 10,364 adults living in Ireland was used for this study. Binary and multinomial logistic regression models were developed to determine the odds ratios for identified risk factors for oral cancer and (1) attendance at a dental professional within the preceding twelve months and (2) self-reported oral status.
Results Males, those aged ≥45 years and current smokers were each independently less likely to have attended for a dental check-up within the preceding twelve months (p < 0.05) and more likely to self-report missing teeth (p < 0.05). Current smoking significantly reduced the likelihood of regular dental attendance (p < 0.05), while current/ex-smoking and drinking above weekly recommended limits were not associated with attendance (p > 0.05). Medical card holders were significantly less likely to have attended and more likely to self-report missing teeth while holders of private health insurance were more likely to attend and reported fewer missing teeth (p < 0.05).
Conclusion Those with multiple risk factors for oral cancer are less likely to attend for routine dental check-ups to allow for opportunistic screening of oral cancer and are more likely to report missing teeth. Self-reported oral status is not completely accurate, but is an adequate estimate on a population level. All health professionals play an essential role in encouraging routine dental attendance among their patients.
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