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The Uncharted Intersection of Dental and Sexual Health



The Uncharted Intersection of Dental and Sexual Health

Regular dental checkups present a prime yet overlooked opportunity to improve sexual health awareness and testing rates. As surprising as it may seem, your dentist’s office could be the ideal place to detect and prevent the spread of common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With the right tools and processes in place, dental practices are poised to play an integral role in supporting public health.

Understanding these links is crucial for dental health professionals to provide holistic care and counseling to patients. It underscores the importance of regular dental check-ups as part of overall health and well-being.


The Powerful Potential of Dental STI Screenings

Recent pilot studies have clearly demonstrated the promise of integrating simple saliva-based STI tests into routine dental visits. The data shows these non-invasive tests can effectively screen for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, herpes, and syphilis during a typical exam. For patients who fail to get recommended STD tests from primary care providers, the dental chair offers a convenient and discreet place to address this critical gap in care.

Dentists and hygienists are uniquely trained to spot potential symptoms in the mouth that may indicate an STI is present. They know what to look for when it comes to oral gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, HPV, and syphilis. Catching STIs at this early stage allows for prompt treatment and prevention of further transmission.

Additionally, the dental setting itself helps eliminate barriers patients often cite for not getting tested, such as shame, anxiety, time constraints, or lack of access to sexual health services. Chairside screening normalized as part of regular preventive care removes any stigma and signals that sexual health is an integral component of overall well-being.

While some additional validation is still needed, prototype saliva test kits have shown impressive accuracy in initial clinical pilots. Top researchers are optimistic that with sufficient evidence, STI testing could eventually be adopted on a wide scale in dental offices across the country, seamlessly integrated into standard wellness care.

Realizing the Model in Practice

Of course, realizing this vision in day-to-day practice requires screening tools that are not only scientifically sound but highly usable. Dentists need saliva-based STI tests that are fast, accurate, painless to collect, and easy to implement within existing office workflows.

This is where P23 Health comes in. Our team has specialized oral STI collection kits and lab testing services optimized specifically for dental settings. We provide everything needed for dentists to smoothly adopt chairside screening into their routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0bkXhjPVlU

  • Individual at-home test kits that allow patients to self-collect a sample and mail it in for confidential results within 48 hours. Kits are available for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis – the four most common treatable STIs.
  • Saliva-based panels that screen for 14 of the most widespread STIs from a single, quick saliva collection. Samples can be collected chairside or at home. Our advanced PCR technology detects infections several days earlier than traditional methods.
  • Integrated telehealth consultations so patients testing positive can be promptly diagnosed online by a physician and prescribed necessary treatment. This ensures a seamless experience from testing to care.
  • Full end-to-end logistical support from collecting supplies to overnight sample shipment to results notification. We handle everything behind the scenes, so your office doesn’t have to.
  • Fast 48-hour turnaround of samples to results helps patients get treated sooner. Our extensive lab network allows for rapid processing and analysis.

By removing all the obstacles around integration, training, analysis, and care coordination, P23 Health empowers dental practices to realize the full potential of STI screening in improving community sexual health.


Understanding the Vital Role of Dentists in Sexual Health

While sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can affect any mucous membranes, including the genitals, throat, anus, and rectum, we are focused on oral manifestations relevant to dentistry. As the mouth is prone to certain STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes simplex, dental professionals play a critical role in detecting symptoms during exams and referring patients for proper testing and treatment. Being informed on how STIs present orally enables dentists to provide complete care, stop disease spread, and safeguard public health. Essentially, grasping the oral link is key for dental teams to address this growing health concern. 


Here are the compelling reasons and benefits for dentists to be informed on this topic:


  • Early Detection and Treatment: Some STIs manifest in the oral cavity. Recognizing these can lead to timely referrals, promoting faster treatment and reducing transmission.
  • Comprehensive Patient Care: Recognizing the oral-systemic health connection enhances patient trust and the practice’s reputation.
  • Educative Role: The dental setting offers an opportunity to educate about oral manifestations of STIs and preventive measures, fostering patient trust.
  • Risk Reduction for Dental Professionals: Knowledge about STIs promotes better protection against potential infections during dental procedures.
  • Enhanced Referral Network: Collaboration between dental and medical professionals benefits patient health.
  • Promotion of Regular Screenings: Encouraging proactive health measures contributes to better community health.

By embracing this deeper understanding, dental professionals can elevate the quality of care provided to their patients.


Data Supporting the Dental-STI Connection

There is increasing evidence from various research studies that certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can manifest symptoms in the oral cavity and are potentially transmissible through oral-genital contact. Here are some specifics:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV):
    • Oral Link: HPV, particularly HPV-16, has been linked to oropharyngeal cancers.
    • Data Source: Studies in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV):
    • Oral Link: HSV-1 can be transmitted to the genital area through oral-genital contact and vice versa for HSV-2.
    • Data Source: The World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Gonorrhea:
    • Oral Link: Gonorrhea can infect the throat through oral sex.
    • Data Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Syphilis:
    • Oral Link: Syphilis can manifest with oral symptoms.
    • Data Source: The CDC.
  • HIV:
    • Oral Link: There’s potential for HIV transmission through oral sex, especially if there are oral conditions that might expose the bloodstream to the virus.
    • Data Source: The CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

We are pleased to offer a series of informative articles that delve into the link between dental health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) https://www.newsweek.com/your-next-dental-appointment-could-come-std-test-784975 https://dentistry.co.uk/2020/07/16/sexual-health-dentistry-look-out-for/ 


STDs on the rise, Dental STI testing kits can help

STDs on the rise, dental STI testing kits can help sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high, with over 2 million cases reported in 2019. However, the CDC estimates true infection rates are much higher, as less than 20% of cases are screened and reported.

P23 Labs provides dental practices with convenient STI testing kits to offer patients during check-ups. This makes screening more accessible and helps normalize routine testing to control this growing epidemic.



Elevating Dental Care: Your Role in a Healthier Tomorrow

By proactively leveraging the trusted relationships and frequent touchpoints dentists maintain with patients, STI testing can move from a ‘Nice-to-have’ to a routine pillar of preventive care. Just as basic screening for cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension is now standardized, so too should comprehensive sexual health checkups be normalized.

Together we can pioneer this integrated, patient-centric model.




The presence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in one’s mouth does not confirm nor rule out the infection’s presence in other areas of the body, such as the anus, penis, or vagina. Please be aware that our saliva tests are designed specifically to detect oral STIs and do not provide information about infections in other locations.

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