Dentists who are considering what area to cover on their next continuing professional development (CPD) training course may want to consider learning more about mouth cancer.
The disease is the 15th most common form of cancer in the UK, according to the charity Cancer Research UK, making it relatively uncommon.
However, figures show that it is on the increase, with the number of cases rising by almost 50 per cent in the last decade.
Current estimates suggest that approximately 60,000 people will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next ten years and around half of these will die from the disease.
However, early detection can greatly reduce the risk of dying, according to Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.
He said: "With early detection it is possible to transform a patient's survival chances from 50 per cent to approaching 90 per cent.
"As the cases of mouth cancer are continuing to rise, the dentist is in a unique position to be able to spot the signs of the disease and to make appropriate referrals."
Unfortunately, one of the problems faced by those in dentist jobs is that mouth cancer is quite rare, accounting for just two per cent of all new cases of cancer.
As Dr Carter pointed out, this means that dentists working in general practice "are not likely to see that many cases within their working lifetime".
"Therefore it is vitally important that dentists continue to learn and upgrade their skills, and having oral cancer as part of CPD can only benefit both dentists and patients," he added.
Dentists are also advised to share their knowledge about mouth cancer with their patients by making a point of discussing the risk factors and symptoms of the disease during every consultation.
The key message to get across to patients is that while mouth cancer is on the increase, it is largely preventable, with research published in December 2011 suggesting that the vast majority of cases are linked to environmental and lifestyle factors, such as tobacco, alcohol and the human papillomavirus (HPV).
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