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J Dent Hyg. 2016 Dec;90(6):346-353.

Detection of Early-Stage Oral Cancer Lesions: A Survey of California Dental Hygienists.


Purpose: To assess dental hygienists' knowledge of early-stage oral cancer lesions and their practices, attitudes, barriers, and facilitators related to early detection.Methods: A 20-item survey containing images of oral lesions and related multiple-choice questions was distributed electronically by the California Dental Hygienists' Association to all dental hygienists whose email addresses were in their database. Response frequencies were calculated per survey item. Logistic regression analysis was used to explore associations.Results: Seven hundred fifty-one dental hygienists responded, yielding a 12% response rate. Respondents' correct identification of the six images of oral lesions varied from 40%-97%. Most respondents reported conducting oral cancer examinations (OCE) at every dental hygiene appointment and performing palpation during OCE. Regions of the mouth varied regarding the frequency of palpation. Lymph node palpation was considered the most commonly omitted step. Those who conducted palpations were 3.3 (95% CI: 1.4 to 7.9, p=0.006) times more likely to report that they knew someone with oral cancer and had detected oral cancer lesions than those who did not. Knowing a person with a history of oral cancer and previously detecting a cancerous lesion were also reported as factors encouraging respondents to bring suspicious lesions to the attention of the dentist. Discouraging factors were mostly related to the dentist' behavior, such as not referring a suspicious lesion for biopsy that the respondent identified.Conclusion: Detection of early-stage oral cancer lesions by dental hygienists may be enhanced through more extensive education of visual appearances of lesions and the importance of palpation in a comprehensive OCE.


clinical management; continuing education; dental hygiene education/curriculum; evidence based practice; health promotion; oral cancer

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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