Talking to your patients about HPV Vaccine

Talking to your patients about HPV Vaccine
What is HPV, and why you should be concerned?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a common virus with over 100+ types, out of which 12 types are of high-risk that can cause tumors. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Oral HPV can deteriorate your oral health with oral warts and non-cancerous tumors. Oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers are caused due to high-risk HPV strains.

The concerns with HPV is that an infected person does not show symptoms. Some evidence suggests skin-to-skin contact can also transmit HPV. The HPV-16 virus has been linked to oropharyngeal cancer. One of such cancers is the oral tongue cancer, which can occur on the front of the tongue. Such cancers can cause lesions or tumors in the mouth.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most HPV-infected people will show no symptoms, and can unknowingly transfer the virus to others. The symptoms usually are warts, which appear as lesions in the mouth and other areas. If infected with an HPV-16, which is linked to oral cancers, can show symptoms like abnormal lumps, sore throats and other oral anomalies.

Why is it crucial for a dentist to educate you about HPV and HPV vaccine?

While tobacco and alcohol have accrued majority of oropharyngeal cancers, HPV has accounted for 25% to 35% of oropharyngeal cancers. Therefore, it is essential to undergo oral screenings with dentists to understand your situation better. Since HPV lacks obvious symptoms, consulting a dentist can help check for possible signs. If an oral lesion arises, a dentist can quickly identify its cause and attribute it accordingly.

HPV vaccines are known for their high effectiveness and are available in Canada. There are three vaccines available, and they have been reviewed extensively for their safety and efficacy. Speaking to a dentist can help you diagnose the symptoms quicker and further aid you in eliminating the disease.

As a dentist, how can we assist you with this ordeal?

We can help you by identifying symptoms of HPV via oral examinations. Regular dental exams will help in early detection and treatment of the disease and get vaccinated quick. Such reviews will help the patient receive early, and less complicated treatment options, reducing health risks and complications. We dentists do not provide the vaccines ourselves, but we can guide you to see a family doctor or pharmacist.

How and where do I get vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine helps protect against HPV and the oropharyngeal cancers it causes. The vaccines are available in Canada and can defend you against warts and HPV-related cancers. If vaccinated before exposure to the virus, HPV vaccines can prevent HPV infection. Even after getting infected, the vaccine can protect you against other strains of the virus. In Alberta, the HPV vaccine is offered through the provincial routine vaccination program. Also, your family doctor or a pharmacist can prescribe you the HPV vaccine.

Please feel free to contact our dentist Dr. Gurpreet Gill at Expressions Dental Calgary, for any assistance. We’d be happy to assist you.