Objectives: Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STI in the United States, is increasingly being associated with a number of cancers, including oral cancers (OC). This may change the approach of oral health providers (OHP) towards screening and identifying OC in their patients.
Methods: Five focus groups were conducted in February and March 2009 with dentists and dental hygienists. Participants were recruited via presentations at monthly meetings of local dental and dental hygiene professional associations, and through association mailing and telephone lists.
Results: A total of 38 OHP participated in the focus groups (17 dentists and 21 hygienists). Analysis of focus group data was framed by three general content areas regarding HPV-related OC and the HPV vaccine, including: (a) knowledge; (b) attitudes; and (c) perceived roles. Sub-themes that emerged included issues related to the HPV vaccine, the role of professional organizations, and concerns with gender roles and confidentiality.
Conclusions: As public awareness of the link between HPV and OC increases, OHP play an important role in addressing this issue with their patients. The current study clearly identified areas that must be addressed among OHP in order for effective and comfortable communication regarding the HPV-OC link and the potential uses of the HPV vaccines to take place, including: (a) increasing knowledge of the HPV-OC link and HPV vaccine; and (b) clarifying screening procedures, role, and expectations.