Dental professionals, making assumptions about the two distinct pathways of oral cancer, often forgo comprehensive oral cancer screenings, which affects patients’ prognoses and creates malpractice liability. Absent comprehensive screenings, HPV-related oral cancer is diagnosed late-stage, when morbidity is highest. To curb late diagnosis, we must heed current research. HPV-related oral cancer, which is rapidly on the rise, is different in its clinical presentation from tobacco/alcohol-related oral cancer. Thus, we cannot rely on what we learned in dental school, risk profiling, or traditional tools to screen for HPV-related oral cancer. We must change our approach, by implementing comprehensive screenings that incorporate extraoral/intraoral tactile screenings, visual screenings of all tissues, and asking appropriate, revealing questions.
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