GPs in the South West have said they are under extra pressure due to patients coming to them rather than dentists with concerns over oral health.
According to a poll conducted by ComRes, 82 per cent of GPs based in the South West believe that too many patients are turning to them for oral health advice instead of a dentist which is increasing pressure on general practices.
The polling, released during Mouth Cancer Action Month, by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), the professional body representing private and corporate dental practices, also showed that 96 per cent of GPs based in the South West, feel more needs to be done to encourage patients to visit a dentist for oral health related issues.
David Worskett, Chair of the ADG, said that with GPs already under huge pressures, the results highlighted the necessity of doing more to make sure that patients had a better understanding of who to go to for dental related issues.
He added: "With mouth cancer rates rising to over 7,500 new cases every year, and early detection vital, it is more important than ever that patients get the right care quickly.
“People often think that dentists are focus purely on teeth and gums, but actually, they are specialists in most aspects of oral health and we often find GPs refer patients back to their dentist if there is any treatment required.
“The message is, if you have any concerns about oral health related issues, be it a toothache or a long-term ulcer, you should be visiting your dentist rather than your GP. This will ensure patients are getting the best possible care, and also relieving pressure on the NHS, which we know is already overstretched.”
Richard Ablett, a dentist with IDH, one of the largest dental groups in the UK, said that it was important patients see their dentist as early as possible if they have any oral health concerns.
He added: “Your dentist is the right person to see if you have any concerns about oral health, especially when it comes to mouth cancer.”
“Due to the nature of the disease, mouth cancer is often only picked up at the later stages. Making sure you get the right diagnosis as early as possible is therefore very important.”
Latest figures show that mouth cancer cases exceeded 7,500 in 2012, and cases are expected to rise further. There has also been notable rises in incidence in younger people and in females.
Certain lifestyle habits can increase the risk of mouth cancer, such as smoking or chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol above recommended levels. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk of some types of mouth cancer, and too much sun exposure may also raise the risk of lip cancers.
The ADG has also released a free educational tool for dental health professionals to help improve early detection and treatment outcomes. The tool is available at the ADG’s website www.dentalgroups.co.uk
For more information about Mouth Cancer Action Month, visit www.mouthcancer.org