Understanding the Implications of Oral HPV

July 12, 2018

Our hygienists here at Ballard Dental Arts began implementing a new salivary test for Oral HPV a couple months ago. Now you might be wondering: “Why is my dentist concerned if I have HPV?” Or you might be thinking: “It’s none of your business if I have HPV.” These are valid concerns, as this is a new screening protocol that is likely to stir up many questions. In an effort to help alleviate any fears or concerns, we’ve put together some information about our new screening below, that further explains our role as dental professionals.

In 2006, HPV studies helped drive the recommendation that adolescent girls (and eventually boys) receive a vaccination that prevents against the two strains of HPV (16 & 18) that are most commonly linked to cancer. As research has continued, we are learning that HPV (most commonly strain 16) causes up to 70% of oropharyngeal cancer cases. Before you become overly concerned, there are a few important points to understand about oral 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.

Here at Ballard Dental Arts, we perform a salivary HPV test via Oral DNALabs. You can learn more about this particular test on their website. Your initial screening takes place at your hygiene visit and your results are discussed at your next recall appointment. You are only at an increased risk for oropharyngeal cancer if you have a long standing HPV infection that your body is not clearing and is also a strain that has been linked to cancer. Regardless of your results, we recommend testing 1x/year. If you do have a persistent HPV infection, we will note that you are at an increased risk and may refer you to your doctor to have the oropharynx region evaluated.

As always if you have any questions, please feel free to ask your dentist or hygienist at your next visit with us!



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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