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Assessing Dental Students’ HPV Health Literacy and Intention to Engage in HPV-Related Oropharyngeal Cancer Prevention

Abstract

Oropharyngeal cancer has become the new face of HPV-related cancers, and this alarming growth highlights the pivotal role dentists can play in prevention. This study aims to identify current HPV-related curricula taught across US dental schools and evaluate HPV health literacy and intention to engage in HPV prevention among US dental students. The dental school curricula included responses from 40 Academic Deans (61% response rate). The 4-item survey focused on understanding HPV-related content in dental school curricula and was administered via Qualtrics. A 31-item paper survey was administered to dental students (N = 109) at a southeastern dental school assessing HPV health literacy, scope of practice, willingness to administer HPV vaccine, self-efficacy in HPV prevention, and basic demographics. Data were collected between February and May 2018. Over 40 courses were identified and included HPV-related content in multiple disciplines including oral and general pathology, immunology, oral medicine, microbiology, infectious diseases, public health, and oral health management among others. Among dental students, over half were female (61%), non-Hispanic White (61%), with a mean age of 26 and in their first (48%) or third year of dental school (52%). Results indicate some HPV knowledge gaps. Most dental students believe HPV prevention is within their scope of practice; however, 56% reported feeling somewhat/not at all confident in recommending the vaccine and performing oral cancer exams. Our data supports the timeliness and need to strengthen HPV-related content in dental school curricula to effectively train and engage future dental providers in HPV prevention.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank participants for their time and insight provided during this study.

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Correspondence to Essie Torres.

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All study documents and protocols were approved by the University and Medical Center Institutional Review Board (UMCIRB).

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Torres, E., Richman, A., Wright, W. et al. Assessing Dental Students’ HPV Health Literacy and Intention to Engage in HPV-Related Oropharyngeal Cancer Prevention. J Canc Educ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01905-z

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Keywords

  • HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer
  • Health literacy
  • Cancer prevention
  • Dental education