Dental providers play a key role in promoting and protecting oral health in their patients. In addition, they are in a unique position to provide patient education that promotes healthy behaviors to prevent or reduce the risk of potential oral health issues, including oral cancers.
Oral cancer diagnoses are dramatically increasing in the U.S., with oropharyngeal cancer driving this increase. Research shows that infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for the rise in oropharyngeal cancer, with the virus responsible for as much as 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancer cases.,2 The HPV vaccine provides protection from the two HPV types 16 and 18, most linked to oropharyngeal cancer, in addition to other HPV types associated with cancers and genital warts. Immunization is not within the scope of a dental provider’s practice; however, dentists and hygienists are in a unique position to advocate for immunization against HPV as a strategy to reduce the risk of oropharyngeal cancer.
The Alliance for HPV Free Colorado aims to ensure all Coloradans are protected against HPV-related cancers. The Alliance for HPV Free Colorado in collaboration with dental partners has developed a dental pilot program offering HPV education. The Alliance is recruiting dental offices to participate.
How the program works:
- Identify a champion in your office (provider).
- The champion will participate in an initial meeting with Alliance staff to discuss the project and timeline.
- All providers and the dental team are educated on HPV and the HPV vaccine, making effective vaccine recommendations, and best practices for oral and oropharyngeal cancer screenings.
- All providers and team members participate in pre- and post-evaluations of the program so it can be improved for other dental health providers.
Please consider participating in this pilot program to help build and improve this model of HPV patient education for dental providers across the region. If you are interested in learning more or would like to enroll your dental practice into this pilot project, please contact Susan Cotten BSDH, RDH, OMT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the work of the Alliance and to access this resource and others electronically, visit www.HPVFreeCO.org.
 Chaturvedi, A. K., Engels, E. A., Pfeiffer, R. M., Hernandez, B. Y., Xiao, W., Kim, E., . . . Gillison, M. L. (2011). Human Papillomavirus and Rising Oropharyngeal Cancer Incidence in the United States. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29(32), 4294-4301. doi:10.1200/jco.2011.36.4596