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Dental Hygiene Newswire

News and research for Ontario dental hygienists

Could oral health professionals help increase HPV vaccination rates?


Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the leading cause of several preventable cancers, including oropharyngeal, cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, and penile cancers. The incidence of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer has increased over the past several decades, particularly among young adults. Oral health professionals are well positioned to contribute to the prevention of HPV-related oropharyngeal and other HPV-related cancers through engaging clients in conversations about HPV vaccination.


This scoping review evaluated the knowledge and discussion of oral healthcare providers about HPV prevention, transmission, and associated risks, including oropharyngeal cancer. It also assessed the barriers and facilitators to HPV-related knowledge and discussion among oral healthcare providers.


Twenty-four studies were included in this review. Knowledge regarding HPV prevalence, transmission, disease processes, and risks varied. In general, discussions related to HPV in oral healthcare settings were infrequent. Facilitators to improve knowledge and discussion included guidance from professional associations, education, and communication skills. Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System data showed most people who are not vaccinated visited their oral healthcare provider in the past year, highlighting the potential role of oral healthcare providers in engaging in discussion of HPV and promoting vaccination awareness and acceptance.


This review indicates conversations about HPV were not common in oral healthcare settings, possibly due to a lack of knowledge and communication skills among oral health professionals. However, there is evidence to support that oral health professionals are interested in increasing vaccine uptake to prevent oropharyngeal cancer.

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