The situation could be still graver as many cases of the disease went unreported, Secretary-General of the Indian Dental Association Dr Ashok Dhoble said from Mumbai.
"Cases of the disease and deaths resulting from it in rural areas and among the poorer sections of society are hardly registered," he noted.
He pointed out that with the high prevalence of smokers and widespread use of other chewable tobacco products, India has seen a steep growth in the number of oral cancer patients in the past decade.
In fact, Dr Dhoble said, oral cancer approximated to 40 per cent of all cancer-related disease in the country with the Northeastern states mostly affected.
"All Northeastern states are badly affected by the disease. The states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are also affected," he said, adding every third person in these states used tobacco-related products.
Talking about measures to curb the prevalence of the deadly disease, he said that nothing short of a total ban on the use of tobacco was the only way.
"There is no other way to curb oral cancer... You have to ban tobacco in its every form," Dr Dhoble said, pointing out that it was the nicotine present in the tobacco which made it addictive and difficult to kick the habit.
"Our government also understands the problem... But the huge number of people employed with the tobacco industry is the problem... The government has to provide them with an alternative livelihood and then ban tobacco totally," he said.
He said a dentist was the first person to diagnose it since oral cancer was not just limited to teeth, but mouth, tongue and integral part of pharynx and gums as well.
The orthodontist explained that oral cancer was 100 per cent curable only if it was reported in the first stage. But once it slips into the second stage, the patient is left with a life span of just five years.
"I will advise people to visit a dentist and not to ignore even if there is a slight problem in the mouth... But above all they have to give up using tobacco in every form. That's the best medicine," Dr Dhoble said
Stressing the need to educate people on the disease, he said that the Indian Dental Association, which will hold the FDI Annual World Dental Congress in Delhi in September, had been conducting awareness camps and counselling people for the last five years.