Discussing HPV and Detecting Oral Cancer: The Role of Oral Health Providers

Published 09/22/2022

Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes 70% of mouth and throat cancers, which are mostly preventable through the HPV vaccine. A visual report from CareQuest Institute summarizes what we know about the relationship between HPV and oral cancer, and outlines the role that dentists and dental hygienists can play in educating patients and preventing HPV through vaccinations.  

Dentists and Dental Hygienists Can Help Prevent HPV and Oral Cancer 

The authors write that “adolescents with a dental visit were significantly more likely to have received an HPV vaccination.” Furthermore, 12.5% of the adolescents who visited the dentist but were unvaccinated for HPV did not have a medical visit. This finding emphasizes the opportunity for oral health providers to educate adolescent patients and their caregivers about preventing HPV and related cancers. Other findings include: 

  • There has been an estimated four- to fivefold increase in the number of cancers of the mouth and throat during the last 10 years in the US. 
  • The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of the six types of cancer caused by HPV, including cancers of the mouth and throat.  
  • More than half (54.1%) of adults surveyed believe that oral health care providers are qualified to educate patients about the HPV vaccine. However, only 5% of adults say that an oral health provider has ever discussed the HPV vaccine with them.  

The visual report also includes links to resources for oral health providers who are interested in discussing HPV and HPV vaccinations.  

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