Background: Opinions, knowledge, behaviours and attitudes of general dental practitioners on oral cancer prevention and detection have been reported from many countries. However, experiences and skills of oral cancer detection have not been evaluated systematically.
Objective: To obtain information on behaviours of screening and ability to correctly detect oral cancer and precancer among general dentists (GDP) in North-western Spain.
Subjects and methods: Thirty-two randomly selected GDPs completed questionnaires and then classified 50 projected images of clinical lesions, into cancer, precancer or benign lesions.
Results: 87.5% reported conducting routine oral examinations, 84.4% provided routine advice to their subjects for risk modifications and 84.4% claimed to biopsy a suspected oral mucosal lesion that they detected in practice. In a quasi research setting using clinical slides, the sensitivity of visual diagnosis of a cancerous lesion was 61.4% and precancer 59.5%. The diagnostic accuracy reported here is lower than what is already reported by evaluation of published screening programmes by dentists.
Conclusions: Our data from Spain suggest a need for improving the diagnostic ability of GDPs in the visual detection of oral cancer/precancer by strengthening continuing professional education.