Free dental screenings for residents as Oxfordshire firefighters raise alarm for Mouth Cancer Action Month

People in Oxfordshire are encouraged to have a two-minute dental screening as the county’s firefighters help raise the alarm about one of the UK’s fastest growing cancers.

November is Mouth Cancer Action Month and Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters in Kidlington will be throwing open its doors on Wednesday (November 7) between 9.30am and 4pm - and all residents are urged to get their mouths checked out.

The screenings by the county’s Oral Health Improvement team, Community Dental Services, are particularly aimed at those working shift patterns who might find squeezing in a trip to the dentist difficult.

Hence why the county’s Fire and Rescue Service was keen to support the initiative.

Frank Patterson, Health and Safety Manager for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “When you’re working different shift patterns it can be easy to overlook the importance of a visit to the dentist.

“But with around 60,000 people across the UK expected to be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade, the risk of ignoring symptoms is obvious.

“Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is keen to promote wellbeing among staff and we will be encouraging colleagues and their families to participate in these free dental screenings.”

The screenings are being run by Community Dental Services with a donated mobile from its Bedford headquarters.

The event at Fire and Rescue Service HQ is all part of Oxfordshire County Council’s commitment to Thriving Communities – helping people to live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.

Signs and symptoms which should not be ignored

  • Ulcers which do not heal in 3 weeks
  • Red and white patches in the mouth
  • Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck area.

Chances of surviving mouth cancer are greatly improved if the cancers are detected early and treated rapidly.

Without early detection it is estimated that over the next decade around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease and around 30,000 people will die. Worldwide, over 460,000 people are expected to die from mouth cancer each year by 2030.

Mouth cancer patients suffer greatly owing to disabilities such as facial deformity, loss of teeth and damage to the tongue and throat, with consequent difficulty in talking and eating in public places.

Charlotte Iddon, Oral Health Improvement Manager for Community Dental Services, Oxfordshire, said: “Mouth cancer is one of the UK’s fastest increasing cancers, with cases up by almost a third in the last decade.

“Holding these screenings during Mouth Cancer Action Month is just one of the initiatives that we are using to raise awareness of mouth cancer in the local community.

“We want to educate people on the signs, symptoms and risk factors, along with the role your dentist can play in helping to catch the disease early enough to beat it. Providing mobile screenings allows valuable members of the community, who may usually miss out on dental trips due to shift work or unsociable working hours, a chance to get seen.

“After all, the key message for Mouth Cancer Action Month is: ‘If in doubt, get checked out’.”

At a glance

  • Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness – including mouth cancer.
  • Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times. Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.
  • Mouth cancer is twice as common in men as in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.
  • Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
  • Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases.
  • Experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.
  • Cancers can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips, and adjacent areas like the throat, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus, and other sites in the head and neck area.

The Community Dental Service mobile will be at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters in Kidlington on Wednesday, November 7, carrying out free dental screenings between 9.30am and 4pm. No appointment necessary.