Dental attendance of oral and oropharyngeal cancer patients in a public hospital in Western Australia


Associate Professor Agnieszka M Frydrych
School of Dentistry (M512)
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA 6009


Background:  Dentists have recently seen the introduction of devices which aim to facilitate early oral cancer detection, sparking interest in opportunistic oral cancer screening. However, concerns have been raised about the lack of regular dental attendance amongst high risk individuals. The purpose of this study was to obtain information pertaining to dental attendance of oral and oropharyngeal cancer patients.

Methods:  All records of patients referred to the Oral Medicine Clinic at the Oral Health Centre of Western Australia, between January 2005 and December 2009, from one major teaching hospital were examined. Information extracted included age, gender, smoking status, referral date, tumour type, tumour site, disease stage (TNM classification), and information on dental attendance. Outcomes measured included time (months) since the patient’s last dental visit and information concerning regularity of dental attendance.

Results:  No association was found between dental attendance and gender, smoking, disease stage or age at diagnosis. Most patients had not visited a dentist in the preceding 12 months. The mean date of last dental visit was 5.6 years prior.

Conclusions:  More should be done in Australia to encourage patients at high risk of oral cancer to attend the dentist and undergo annual oral soft tissue examination.