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August JADA finds parents comfortable discussing HPV vaccine with dentists

July 24, 2020

By Mary Beth Versaci

August JADA cover image
Parents feel comfortable having discussions about human papillomavirus and its vaccine in the dental setting, according to a study published in the August issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The cover story, "Parent Perceptions of Dental Care Providers' Role in Human Papillomavirus Prevention and Vaccine Advocacy," looked at the responses of 208 parents of adolescents aged 9-17 who were recruited from the Minnesota State Fair to survey their awareness and knowledge of the HPV vaccine, as well as their attitudes and comfort in receiving HPV vaccination recommendations and counseling from dental health care providers.

"Although the HPV vaccine prevents cancer, it has lacked strong uptake due to the stigma of HPV being perceived as a sexually transmitted infection," said Cynthia Stull, clinical associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and corresponding author of the study. "This perception makes oral health providers hesitant to talk about HPV and worried about what parents would think. We wanted to know how parents would react to dental professionals talking to them and their children about the role of HPV in oropharyngeal cancers and the benefit of the HPV vaccine."

The survey found 66.4% of the parents felt dentists were qualified to counsel about HPV and 72.6% felt they were qualified to counsel about the vaccination, while 60.9% felt dental hygienists were qualified to counsel about HPV and 58.5% felt they were qualified to counsel about the vaccination.

"Our study showed that parents were receptive to dental professionals discussing the HPV vaccine with them and their child," Ms. Stull said. "In fact, they expect us to provide this important preventive information. Dental professionals should feel empowered to discuss the HPV vaccine with their patients to increase vaccination rates and prevent infection with HPV types causing oropharyngeal cancer."

The study also found children's vaccination statuses and parents' education levels were correlated with levels of comfort. Parents whose children had not started the HPV vaccine series were less comfortable with their children’s dentist talking to them about HPV vaccination and recommending vaccination than those whose children had started the vaccine series, and 62.9% of parents with a high school education or some college were comfortable, while 82.4% with associate's or bachelor's degrees and 85.5% with graduate or professional degrees were comfortable.

Other articles in the August issue of JADA discuss salivary factors related to caries in pregnancy, antimicrobial stewardship in dental practice and direct-to-consumer orthodontics.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at JADA.ADA.org in advance of the print publication.