Now, there's a test available in many dental offices to detect HPV in saliva, called OraRisk HPV. Dawn Rickert, D.M.D., Dentist practicing in New Hope, PA, says the test is very easy to use. The patient gargles with a sterile saline solution for 30 seconds and spits the contents into a collection tube. She adds that it's important to do a thorough gargle to pick up cells from the back of the throat and base of the tongue, where HPV (if present) is commonly found. The collection tube is capped, labeled and placed in a shipping bag for mailing to a processing laboratory.
Rickert says the results are typically available within one to two weeks. The dentist gets an e-mail notification that the report is available and can be accessed online. If HPV has been detected in the sample, the report will list the type of strain and potential risk profile for oral cancer.
When patients have a positive report, Rickert brings them back into the office to discuss other oral cancer risk factors and to perform a thorough check for suspicious lesions. If no lesions are found, the patient will be retested in another 12 months. Even if the test is negative, Rickert still recommends retesting in another five years because patients can acquire HPV sometime in the future.
A positive test result isn't a guarantee that a person will develop oral cancer. However, it does mean there is a probable higher risk. Rickert says if a patient is found to be at higher risk, more frequent exams can be done to detect the cancer is early stages, when the chance of survival is much greater.
For information on the OraRisk HPV Test