Impact of oral potentially malignant disorders on quality of life

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Patients’ input in evaluating their oral health needs and treatment plans has been extensively promoted,1 and the subjective perception of the impact of oral health status on quality of life (QoL) has become an important method of evaluating treatment outcomes.2 Studies indicate that oral diseases like periodontal diseases and tooth loss significantly impact QoL.3 In particular, oral malignancies are significantly associated with physical, psychological and functional problems that influence overall QoL. Hence, QoL is used as an important treatment outcome in head and neck cancer patients.4 Although oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD) are not life threatening until they transform into malignancies they might cause pain, affect the functioning of the oral cavity, or cause psychosocial impairment due to anxiety associated with their potentially malignant nature.5
Although national health bodies in the developed world are now encouraging evaluation of the impact of disease by use of patient reported outcome measures,6 the use of QoL assessments is limited in oral medicine practice.7 The literature on the QoL in OPMD patients is scanty, but from the limited literature available, a few generic QoL instruments have been used in the past.8 Recently, we developed a condition‐specific OPMDQoL questionnaire, which was found to be valid and reliable in assessing the QoL in oral leukoplakia (OL), oral lichen planus (OLP) and oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) patients in a Telugu‐speaking Indian population.9 Despite all three of these conditions having a similar psychological impact, principally because of the unknown risk of malignant transformation, the physical and functional impairments could differ. Here, we aimed to assess the ability of the instrument to differentiate the impact of three different OPMDs on various aspects of QoL. This assessment helps in further evaluating the discriminant validity of the OPMDQoL questionnaire. Also, we aimed to determine the differences in QoL based on the extent of the disease. This will help to determine if the instrument has utility for studies of disease progression and response to therapy. In addition, we compared the impact of the three different OPMDs and their disease stages on general health‐related QoL.
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