ADA expands policy on oral cancer detection

Dentists should conduct routine visual and tactile exams for oral and oropharyngeal cancer with all patients, according to an American Dental Association resolution passed Sept. 9. 

The resolution revised a previous ADA policy to include oropharyngeal cancer and cover all patients, not just those with increased risk due to tobacco and alcohol use.

The new policy aligns with CDC guidelines and "highlights dentists' critical role in cancer screening and prevention," Maria Geisinger, DDS, chair of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs said.

The amendment also aligns with an ADA policy approved in October 2018, that supports dentists administering the human papillomavirus vaccine. The CDC estimates 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are associated with HPV.

A study found only one-third of U.S. adults older than 30 who had visited a dentist in the last two years received an oral cancer screening. Additionally, racial and ethnic minority, low income, less educated and uninsured individuals were less likely to receive an oral cancer exam.

"The lower probability of dental professionals to screen these individuals represents a missed opportunity for early detection and improved outcomes of oral cancer," Alessandro Villa, DDS, assistant professor at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University and associate surgeon at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital, said.

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