BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Many oral squamous cell carcinomas present as late stage disease and so the detection of early and pre-malignancy is considered to be of paramount importance. The majority of research examining primary care dentists' experience of the detection and management of early disease has been undertaken using questionnaires, with the inherent bias this introduces. The aim of this study was to use qualitative methods to develop a richer account of practitioners' views about screening and what factors influence the decision to refer a patient.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with eighteen dentists in Sheffield, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Ten codes were identified according to the aims of the study and organized into four overarching themes.
RESULTS: Although many dentists were screening regularly, some did not appear to be adopting a rigorous and systematic approach. A number of participants also placed more reliance on 'classical' presentations rather than the more varied presentation of potentially malignant lesions and were more influenced by the clinical history of the lesion rather than risk factors.
CONCLUSION: Overall, the present research suggests that for some dentists, more rigour is required when examining for early disease.