Dentist involved in study discovers HPV in patients

UT Health San Antonio involved in national network to recruit dentists for different studies

A dentist in Bandera County discovered two of her patients had human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, through a simple test.

SAN ANTONIO – A dentist in Bandera County discovered two of her patients had human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, through a simple test.

The HPV discovery was part of a national study UT Health San Antonio is participating in.

Dr. Risé Martin joined the study on HPV, which is a common sexually-transmitted infection that can lead to cancer. Testing is typically done at a physician’s office and not at a dentist’s office.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful that every time you go into the dentist and they do an oral cancer screening, that this could be part of that screening?” Martin said. “And ... it’s not invasive at all. They’re doing a mouth rinse. And if they could find out that they don’t have HPV, I would think that would be a big relief to people.”

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More than 50 of Martin’s patients participated in the study.

“They would actually rinse with a solution. And then after that, the solution would go into a vial. And then that vial was shipped back to the research clinic,” Martin said.

The goal of the study was to screen patients for oral and throat cancers. The test came back positive for two of her patients.

“Unfortunately, one of those patients died a few months after we found out that they were positive. The other patient did get treatment,” Martin said.

Joyce Daugherty participated in the study and said she would do it again because it was simple.

“I have a lot of cancer in my family, and if that can help other people, I think it’s very worthwhile, especially a swab in your mouth,” Daugherty said.

The HPV study was headed by the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. Through the network, research is conducted in dental offices with patients and ranging in different topics.

“We recruit dentists, practitioners, to join our studies so that we can recruit patients in the practice and learn about how the best ways to deliver oral health care is in the dental practices,” said Dr. David Cochran, a UT Health San Antonio professor.

Director of the Southwest Region, Cochran said UT Health San Antonio has been involved in the network since 2012.

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“The reason the UT Health School of Dentistry is involved is because most of us in the dental school have a lot of background and experience in doing clinical trials. So, we know how to collect data. We know how to recruit dentists and patients into studies,” Cochran said.

Other clinical trials include studying the use of antibiotics for patients, cracked teeth and root canal pain.

Martin said she has participated in four studies, which haven’t just had an impact on her patients.

"I think it just makes me know that I need to always, not just occasionally, but always, do my oral cancer screenings," Martin said. "And to be very thorough with them and explain to the patient what I'm doing, so that they have a better understanding and they don't feel apprehensive. But that they also know that I care enough about them that we're doing this.

Dentists and patients who participate in the studies are compensated for their time and effort.

If you’re interested in participating in a study, you can send an email to or call 210-562-5652.

About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.