What the general dental practitioner needs to know about HPV-related oropharyngeal malignancy

Abstract

The rates of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma have continued to rise secondary to the increasing prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV-related disease is typically found in younger patients who do not have the traditional risk factors for malignancy. General dental practitioners (GDPs) often examine patients regularly and may therefore have an opportunity to identify oropharyngeal malignancies at an early stage. However, many GDPs are unfamiliar with oropharyngeal anatomy, pathology and clinical examination. This review summarises the key points in identifying patients with oropharyngeal malignancy who necessitate urgent referral.

Key points

  • Provides an overview of anatomy and an anatomical-based method of assessment for oropharyngeal malignancy.

  • Increases awareness of the increasing incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal malignancy, occurring in younger patients without the traditional risk factors for oral cancer.

  • Recommends that all GDPs extend their routine clinical examination to include the oropharynx and neck in an attempt to improve early malignancy detection rates and reduce potential patient harm and medico-legal claims.

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Chivani Tailor and Karen A. Eley are recognised as joint first authors.

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Correspondence to Karen A. Eley.

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Tailor, C., Eley, K., Hussain, F. et al. What the general dental practitioner needs to know about HPV-related oropharyngeal malignancy. Br Dent J 229, 355–360 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-2113-6

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