Did you know men are more likely to get oral cancer than women? Men are also more likely to skip dentist and doctor visits. For Men’s Health Month happening now, let’s raise awareness about these and other disparities.
Overall, more than 10 adults out of every 100,000 will develop oral cancer.
Oral cancer incidence among men is more than twice as high as among women in the United States. The same holds true when broken out by race for those who identified as white, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian or Pacific Islander.
However, prevalence among black men is more than three times as high as among black women. The disparity is similar among Hispanic men and women, too.
What’s more, oral cancer rates increase with age among both women and men. The increase becomes more rapid after age 50 and peaks between ages 60 and 70.
But diagnosing oral cancer at an early stage significantly increases five-year survival rates. Today, we are more aware of the importance of oral health and how to prevent disease thanks in large part to better education, greater access and advances in technology.
These factors have helped oral cancer survival rates steadily improve since 1975, though the disparity among white and black men has remained largely unchanged.
So what more can be done to reduce oral health disparities?
To start, efforts like those funded by the DentaQuest Foundation are designed to target prevention and collaboration in hyper-local ways.
One investment supports the Chicago Community Oral Health Forum to develop and expand school-based oral health education to students in the Chicago Public School system and the development of dental homes for students with urgent needs.
Another investment is supporting the University of Alabama as it implements a framework for interprofessional training that will produce health care practitioners in Alabama with a greater understanding of oral health and the ability to work in health teams to provide optimal care to their patients – from geriatrics to pediatrics.
These types of programs happening across the country target long-term improvements and sustainable changes for a variety of communities – from predominantly black public schools in Chicago to the elderly in Alabama.
The DentaQuest Institute, meanwhile, is expanding oral health care to rural parts of the country. Experts are working closely with local teams, helping providers develop evidence-based and financially-sound practices that ensure a continuum of care for regions that largely have been without regular access to dental care.
With dedication and support, these projects can ultimately change the trajectory of oral health disparities in America.