HPV Vaccine and Oral Health

You’ve probably heard about the health risks caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. Many people are exposed to HPV, and, the body is usually able to clear the infection on its own within one to two years. Yet, many people remain infected.

It’s important to understand there is a link between HPV and oral health. HPV can also infect the mouth and throat. And there are some types of HPV that increase the risk for certain head and neck cancers.

HPV can cause cancers in the oropharynx – which includes the back of the throat, the tonsils and the base of the tongue. Studies show that HPV causes up to 70% of these cancers in the U.S. Thankfully, the HPV vaccine is a simple way to protect your family.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The American Dental Association strongly supports the administration of the HPV vaccine as a safe and effective way to reduce the risk for oral HPV infections and the cancers they can cause.

Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on the age and dosing for the HPV vaccine.

  • Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, though it can be administered as early as age 9.
  • Three doses of the vaccine are recommended in teens and young adults, ages 15 through 26.

The Food & Drug Administration has approved the HPV vaccine for those up to age 45, so it’s not just for children and young adults. Talk to your health care provider the HPV vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe?

The HPV vaccine has a very good safety record. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that more than 170 million doses have been given with no serious safety concerns.

Are there any side effects?

As with any vaccine, there may be pain or redness in the arm after the injection. You will be monitored for about 15 minutes after the shot, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for sufficient time. Parents and guardians can find more helpful information about the HPV vaccine on the AAP website.

Concerned? Talk to your dentist now.

When it comes to safeguarding your oral health, your dentist is your best resource. S/he can answer questions about diseases of the mouth, throat, tongue and tonsils and help you understand the science behind the HPV vaccine.

Need to find a new dentist? Here’s how.