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Pandemic-Driven Behaviors Could Increase Risk of Oral Cancer

April 5, 2022
by ADA


Two years into the pandemic, regular dental visits are more important than ever. In fact, they could save lives.

New studies published in The Journal of the American Dental Association underscore the importance of regular dental visits in the prevention of the sixth most common cancer in the world – oral cancer.

New research finds:

  • Pandemic-driven behaviors – such as higher tobacco and alcohol use, poor diet, poor oral hygiene and delayed dental care – may increase the risk of oral cancer. As a result, the study suggests more people may be diagnosed at a later stage, making treatment more difficult.
  • Dentists screen for oral cancer nearly as often as they look for cavities. A separate study conducted by the ADA Clinical Evaluators Panel finds 90% of surveyed dentists who perform risk assessments during regular patient check-ups screen for oral cancer.

The release of the data coincides with the beginning of Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 54,000 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer this year, with 11,230 deaths from the disease. Because dentists are examining the mouth and throat – and they see their patients more regularly than physicians – dentistry is well positioned to detect oral cancer. The earlier oral cancer is caught, the better the chance of a positive outcome.