by Malcolm Prior
BBC News Online, Oxford
Everybody knows that regular check-ups at the dentist's are essential for our health.
A visit to the dentist can prove to be a real live-saver
But not many realise just what a life-saver they can be.
For grandfather-of-three Arthur Dowley, however, a routine trip to the dentist's chair meant the difference between life and death.
His quick-eyed dentist spotted the symptoms of what was later diagnosed as potentially-fatal mouth cancer.
Mr Dowley, of Fulbrook, Oxfordshire, is just one of the thousands of sufferers that are diagnosed each year.
He told BBC News Online of his experience during the British Dental Health Foundation's Mouth Cancer Awareness Week.
Mouth cancer - the facts
In the UK, about 4,300 new cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed annually
Mouth cancer is the cause of about 1,700 deaths every year
Mouth cancer is more common in men than in women
Mouth cancer is more likely to affect people over 40
Early detection and treatment can improve survival chances from 50% to nearer 90%
Mr Dowley was himself diagnosed after his dentist, Andrew Sykes, spotted a lump in his mouth.
He was referred to a specialist at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital where he underwent major surgery to removed the malignant lump.
Mr Dowley said: "I would not be here today if he had not spotted it.
"I would not be able to see my grandchildren.
"It was very serious. The specialist said there was a very strong chance that I would not be able to speak after the operation.
Mouth cancer can first reveal itself as an ulcer
"Afterwards, he said it had been pretty horrendous.
"For months whenever I had food or drink it would come through my nose as I had no roof to my mouth.
"Fortunately, it has now grown over and the cancer has not come back.
"If it wasn't for Mr Sykes I would not have been here a long time ago."
Smokers and excessive drinkers are most at risk of mouth cancer, which can first reveal itself as a seemingly trivial mouth ulcer.
The British Dental Health Foundation says that dentists and dental hygienists are specifically trained to carry out examinations for the cancer.
They are urging everyone to visit the dentist at least once a year.
Mr Sykes, of Sinson and Sykes dental practice in Carterton, told BBC News Online: "It's very, very satisfying to see Mr Dowley going strong.
"It gives me as much pleasure as anything in life.
"Of the eight cases I have dealt with there are still seven going.
"The eighth did not make it because it was not spotted early enough."