Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is
responsible for most anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers. Dental care providers can
be advocates for vaccine uptake, yet little is known about patients’ perceptions of
the role of dental care providers in HPV education and prevention.
Parents of adolescents aged 9 through 17 years were recruited from the Minnesota State
Fair to survey their awareness and knowledge of the HPV vaccine. Parents were also
surveyed about their attitudes toward and comfort in receiving HPV vaccination recommendations
and counseling from oral health care providers.
The authors interviewed 208 parents, most of whom felt that dentists were qualified
to counsel about HPV (66.4%) and its vaccination (72.6%). A lower proportion felt
similarly regarding dental hygienists. Parent age and sex were not correlated with
comfort levels, but education levels (
P = .021) and child vaccination statuses (
P > .001) were.
Parents are comfortable having discussions about HPV and the vaccine in the dental
setting, especially with dentists. This may represent an additional setting where
strong recommendations increase vaccine uptake.
Our findings emphasize an opportunity for the dental care team to improve the patient
perspective on the role of dental care providers in HPV prevention. Continuing dental
education can increase providers’ knowledge, comfort, and confidence in discussing
HPV with parents. Parents perceiving provider comfort and confidence might be more
comfortable with HPV conversations. Training in collaborative, patient-focused communication
techniques, such as motivational interviewing, can improve both providers’ and patients’
comfort and confidence in HPV counseling from oral health care providers.