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HPV and You!

Oral cancer screening at your dental visit

At Okanagan Dentistry, our Kelowna dentists and hygienists conduct comprehensive examinations to ensure your oral health is in optimal condition. As part of this examination, we perform a thorough soft tissue exam, both inside and outside the mouth, to identify any lesions that may be of concern.

One common issue we come across is the presence of papillomas, also known as warts, in the mouth. These warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). While HPV infections are quite widespread in the general population, it's important to note that most skin infections caused by HPV result in noncancerous warts. However, certain strains of the virus can lead to cancer, with HPV being responsible for 70% of oropharyngeal cancers, 32% of cancers in the oral cavity, and 20% of laryngeal cancers. Surprisingly, these HPV-related cancers are more prevalent than cervical cancers.

It's worth mentioning that most oral HPV infections are sexually acquired and can manifest up to 30 years after exposure. Interestingly, men are 4.5 times more likely to contract HPV infections than women. Although tongue and throat cancers are relatively rare, their prognosis is often grim, with approximately 40% of oropharyngeal cancer patients succumbing to the disease within 5 years. These cancers can also be incredibly painful.

But here's the good news: many of these cancers can be prevented through vaccination against HPV! Ideally, the vaccination should be administered during childhood. In British Columbia, the HPV vaccine is provided free of charge to children in Grade 6 as part of the BC public health plan. Additionally, most individuals under the age of 26 who missed the Grade 6 vaccination schedule are also eligible. It's important to note that there is no upper age limit for receiving the vaccine. By getting vaccinated, you can significantly reduce the risk of infection, recurrence, and transmission of the virus, as the vaccine protects against 9 strains of HPV.

We strongly encourage you to take HPV-related cancers seriously and, if you haven't already done so, speak with your healthcare provider about getting the HPV vaccine. Your health and well-being are our top priorities, and our team at Okanagan Dentistry are here to support you in maintaining a healthy smile and body.