Objectives: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OPSCCs). Vaccines are effective in protecting against strains associated with OPSCCs, however vaccine uptake is low. The objective of this project was to determine HealthPartners Dental Group oral health providers (OHP)’ knowledge, attitudes, current practices, and willingness to recommend HPV vaccination.
Methods: OHPs were invited to complete an electronic survey sent by email from the dental group leadership. OHPs included general dentists, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, dental therapists, and dental hygienists. Descriptive statistics were used to evaluate and compare overall responses and responses based on provider type, gender, and years since graduation.
Results: The overall response rate was 70%. 79% of OPHs agree that they should provide information regarding HPV to their patients, however only 43% of dentists and 14% of dental hygienists feel comfortable discussing HPV and the vaccine with their patients. Only 5% overall report that they always discuss the importance of the HPV vaccine with patients ages 11-12, the recommended age for the vaccine. Dentists were generally more willing to address HPV OPSCC than dental hygienists, with female dentists and dentists who graduated under ten years ago being the most willing.
Conclusions: The results from our study demonstrate that there are barriers, knowledge gaps, and attitudes that need to be addressed before HPV OPSCC prevention becomes a routine part of clinical practices in dentistry. Further research is needed to identify efficacious strategies to increase OHP delivery of oral cancer prevention approaches.