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Introduction. With increasing awareness that human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause oropharyngeal cancer (OPC), dental providers may play an important role in promoting HPV vaccination and preventing cancer. Our goal was to assess knowledge and current HPV vaccine counseling practices among Vermont dentists and dental hygienists to identify potential targets for state-level interventions to increase vaccine coverage.

Methods. We developed a survey to assess knowledge, beliefs, practices and barriers regarding HPV vaccination, and distributed it via email to practicing Vermont dentists and dental hygienists. Free responses were analyzed using a coding framework generated from three key informant interviews.

Results. 90% of providers believe it is important for them to play an “active role” in their patients’ general medical care, yet only 50% believe it is their responsibility to recommend HPV vaccine. Only 50% feel knowledgeable enough to recommend the vaccine. 78.6% of providers rarely discuss HPV vaccination with their age-appropriate patients, and 82% rarely recommend the vaccine. When asked to name the biggest barrier against recommending vaccination, providers named the following factors most frequently: “not responsibility of dental provider” (27%); lack of confidence in knowledge (19%); time constraints (14%); and parent philosophical/religious opposition (11%).

Discussion. Because dentists and dental hygienists care for a broad pediatric population across the state, dental communities may be poised to play an expanded role in Vermont’s efforts to improve its HPV vaccination coverage. Our study identifies several potential areas for provider-focused interventions, which include educating providers about the HPV vaccine and reducing significant barriers against recommending.


Wendy Davis, UVM Larner College of Medicine

Christine Finley, Vermont Department of Health


Vermont Department of Health


Adolescent Health, Early and Middle Childhood, Immunization and Infectious Diseases

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Role of the Dental Community in HPV Vaccination Promotion