With over 7300 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year, it is clear that more needs to be done to educate people on the risks of poor oral health writes James Goolnik.
More than 90% of these cases can be directly linked to unhealthy lifestyles, with smoking and drinking amongst the biggest culprits.
Although mortality rates for oral cancer are relatively low compared with other forms of cancers, they have still risen by around 10% in the last decade, due to a lack of publicity and understanding.
Including oral cancer cover in your clients' dental plans is therefore extremely important, since early diagnosis plays a key role in fighting the disease.
Choosing the right dental plan
When it comes to offering clients the best protection possible, you need to consider a dental plan that covers not only the treatment of oral cancer but the prevention as well.
Survival rates for the disease tend to fluctuate, depending on whether it's contained in an area such as the lips or tongue or whether it has begun to spread to the surrounding tissue.
The sooner oral cancer is caught, the sooner it can treated, with early diagnoses resulting in around an 80-90% chance of survival in most cases.
These statistics should be reflected in any dental cover, with a larger emphasis on preventative measures.
While invasive treatment is available, prevention in the form of routine dentistry can be invaluable.
If an employee is at an increased risk of oral cancer, because of unhealthy lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking or poor diet, then transferring them to a more comprehensive plan could be a better option in the long run.
With a capitation plan employees are entitled to an unrestricted number of check-ups, meaning more vulnerable members of staff can afford to go for more oral health examinations.
Although these plans can prove dearer, the benefits are unrivalled and the regular examinations can make a major difference in catching the cancer before it spreads.
Promoting prevention to clients and their employees
On the whole, people are simply not aware of the real dangers of poor oral hygiene.
While it may not be your place to tell your client's employees how to live their lives, providing them with clinical information on the causes of oral cancer can bring the problem to light.
With dental issues causing 17% of employees to take time off work, there is a clear advantage to early prevention schemes.
Visiting the dentist should be staple part of employees' lives, but with more and more practises charging for their services, people are beginning to cut oral check-ups from their budget.
By putting and place comprehensive dental plan, you can enhance the health and wellbeing of your client's workforce.
Oral cancer is almost always caused by poor lifestyle choices, but this isn't necessarily common knowledge.
For workplaces, providing a duty of care for employees is incredibly important. By placing just as much emphasis on oral health as on other forms of illness staff can be kept healthy and happy.
The hidden costs of cancer
Although many courses of cancer treatment are free on the NHS, the burden of living with cancer can have a detrimental effect on working life.
Nearly a third of cancer patients reported a loss in income, due to an inability to carry on their full time career. Oral cancer proves no exception, with invasive procedures such as chemotherapy taking their toll and productivity levels falling across all walks of life.
Employers need to be able to cater for these changes. If an employee is already covered by a plan that pays out following a cancer diagnosis, then this can go a long way towards ensuring a continued quality of life.
Helping employees rehabilitate and find a way back into work should be a priority for any company focused on the wellbeing of their staff.
James Goolnik is a qualified dentist and founder of the Bow Lane Dental Group.