Understanding the Implications of Oral HPV

July 11, 2018

 

Over the past few months we have introduced a new screening test. The test is a salivary test for Oral HPV. There may be some questions you have and even some reservations. Perhaps you want to know “ why is my dentist collecting this information?” or maybe you’re thinking “ this is none of your business if i have HPV”. We are here to help answer those questions you have and ease any of your concerns. Since this is a new screening protocol we have decided to put together some information, see below.

We have all heard about HPV and that contracting HPV can increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer. That information led to the 2006 vaccine recommendation. This vaccine was for adolescent girls( and eventually boys). The vaccine assists with the prevention of two strains of HPV( 16 and 18) that are most commonly linked to cancer. Since 2006 research has continued, and with that we have learned more about HPV. A fairly recent revelation is that HPV ( most commonly strain 16) causes up to 70% of oropharyngeal cancer cases. Now before you worry, there are some important  things we want you to understand about HPV.

 

  • There are more than 200 different strains of HPV, most of which do not cause cancer.
  • The virus often produces no symptoms, and the majority of people infected with HPV will never know it, because the immune system can clear the virus on its own.
  • According to an ongoing study, it is thought that around 26 million Americans have an HPV infection on any given day.
  • The CDC believes that up to 80% of Americans will contract an HPV infection in their lifetime.
  • Of individuals infected with high risk strains of HPV only 1% of cases will develop in to cancer.

 

At our office the salivary HPV test is performed via Oral DNAlabs. If you wish to learn more about this test, the Oral DNAlabs website has some additional information. We will perform an initial screening at your next hygiene appointment. We will discuss the results at your next recall appointment. We will be recommending an annual test, no matter what the results are. We want you to remember that you are only at increased risk for oropharyngeal cancer if you have a long standing HPV infection. If you do happen to have a persistent HPV infection we will document that information and we may refer you to a specialist that can perform an evaluation of the oropharynx region. If you have any questions our clinical staff is always ready to help assist and inform you the best way we can!

 

References:

Oral Cancer Foundation- https://oralcancerfoundation.org/understanding/hpv/hpv-oral-cancer-facts/

Centers for Disease Control- https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/basic_info/hpv_oropharyngeal.htm

 


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