The HPV vaccine – what do your patients need to know? Rachel Pointer Tandex

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  Posted by: manpreet.boora      2nd October 2017

Some experts claim that the human papillomavirus (HPV) will soon overtake smoking and alcohol as the leading cause of mouth cancer.[i] A recent study into the impact of the HPV vaccination found that it does confer a degree of protection against oral HPV infections.[ii] The research showed that the prevalence of high-risk HPV infection was 88 per cent lower among young adults who received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to those who had not been vaccinated at all.

HPV is extremely common and many will not even know that they had it. Most infections are spread by skin-to-skin contact and usually during sexual activity. A person who started having sex at an earlier age, or who has had many sexual partners is at a greater risk. Although the body can often fight a HPV infection by itself, if it is persistently re-infected the likelihood of cancer developing is increased.

In the UK, girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer, which also has links to the virus. But the latest research is indicating that boys would benefit from receiving it too. Public Health England is considering plans to extend it after studies showed that, by 2020, more men than women will contract cancer from the HPV infection than women.[iii]

For dental teams, a holistic, preventive position is the best route to take. For your youngest patients, knowing how to eat well so that that body is equipped to fight all kind of viruses and infections is fundamental. For teens and adolescents, they may be old enough to be taught about the connection between sexual health and serious oral conditions – you might need to work with local schools or youth groups to help you find the right tone. Use the reception area to advertise the HPV vaccine and make sure that staff are able to answer any questions in an informed manner.

You should be able to discuss oral cancer, the symptoms, causes and the risk factors and what they should do if they are worried. Have protocols in place for what to do if a patient tells you they want to quit smoking, or feel they are drinking too much and it is affecting their dental health.

Alongside regular appointments, a good, thorough twice-daily clean using the right tools are the foundation of preventive care. A high-quality range of brushes and adjunctive products that can be used effectively by all the family, such as the Tandex range, should be recommended.

Oral cancer has been on the rise over the last decade. Dental practitioners are reminded to be vigilant in spotting the early signs and symptoms, as early detection considerably raises the chances of a full recovery. While the debate about extending the HPV vaccine continues in the UK, the causes of HPV must also be discussed in order to avoid a future time bomb.


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[i] Oral Health Foundation. Tell me about Mouth Cancer. Found at:

(accessed May 2017).

[ii] HPV vaccination may reduce oral HPV infections, but still under-utilized. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2017. Found at: (accessed May 2017).

[iii] Teenage boys could be given HPV jabs to prevent cancer. The Telegraph, 11 April 2017. Found at: (accessed May 2017).

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