METHODS: Secondary analysis of data extracted from the British Household Panel Survey, a national longitudinal survey (n=5547). Analysis to ascertain whether patterns of attendance for dental check-ups for a period of 10 years (1991-2001) were associated with risk factors for oral cancer such as age, sex, education, social class, smoking status and smoking intensity.
RESULTS: Males, aged over 40 years, less educated manual workers and smokers were significantly less likely to attend for dental check-ups compared with females and younger, higher educated, higher socio-economic class non-smokers (p < 0.05). Throughout the 10-year period, young people, more than older people, had progressively lower odds ratios of attending. Those with more education used dental services more. Heavy smokers were infrequent attendees.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that opportunistic oral cancer screening by dentists is not feasible to include high-risk groups as they are not regular attendees over 10 years. Those who would be screened would be the low-risk groups. However, dentists should continue screening all patients as oral precancers are also found in regular attendees. More should be done to encourage the high-risk groups to visit their dentists.