BACKGROUND: The authors conducted a study to examine oral cancer prevention and early detection practice patterns in a population-based random sample of practicing oral health care professionals in New York state.
METHODS: The authors surveyed a population-based, self-weighting, stratified random sample of dentists (n = 1,025) and dental hygienists (n = 1,025) in New York state. They assessed the subjects’ readiness to offer tobacco-use cessation and alcohol-abuse counseling and oral cancer examinations.
RESULTS: The effective response rates were 55 and 66 percent for dentists and dental hygienists, respectively. In terms of readiness to perform oral cancer examinations for patients aged 40 years and older, the large majority (82 percent of dentists and 72 percent of dental hygienists) were in the maintenance stage of behavior, indicating that oral cancer examinations were a routine part of their practice. In terms of readiness to offer tobacco-use cessation counseling, only 12 percent of dentists and 21 percent of dental hygienists were in the maintenance stage, and only 2 percent of dentists and 4 percent of dental hygienists were in the maintenance stage of offering alcohol-abuse counseling.
CONCLUSIONS: Oral cancer examinations seem to have been adopted as a standard of practice by most oral health care providers in New York state, but cancer prevention services, such as counseling regarding cessation of tobacco use and alcohol abuse, are lacking.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Oral health care providers should be trained in oral cancer prevention services such as tobacco-use cessation and alcohol-abuse counseling and encouraged to include these services, along with continued provision of oral cancer examinations, as a standard aspect of care.