BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to assess the knowledge, practices, and opinions of dentists and dental hygienists in New York State regarding oral cancer prevention and early detection.
METHOD: We sent questionnaires to a stratified random sample of dentists and dental hygienists selected from a list of licensed oral health care providers in New York State. We analyzed responses to the questionnaires, and we derived descriptive statistics.
RESULTS: The effective response rate was 55% and 65% among dentists and dental hygienists, respectively. About 85% of dentists and 78% of dental hygienists reported providing annual oral cancer examination to their patients aged 40 and above. Although a majority assessed tobacco use, fewer practitioners assessed alcohol use. Both dentists and dental hygienists lacked knowledge in some aspects of risk factors, signs, and symptoms of oral cancer. However, dentists had significantly higher knowledge scores than dental hygienists.
CONCLUSION: Dentists and dental hygienists in New York State are knowledgeable about oral cancer, but there are gaps in the knowledge of certain risk factors and in the oral cancer examination technique.