Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is a major risk factor for a distinct subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The current review summarizes the epidemiology of HNSCC and the disease burden, the infectious cycle of HPV, the roles of viral oncoproteins, E6 and E7, and the downstream cellular events that lead to malignant transformation. Current techniques for the clinical diagnosis of HPV-associated HNSCC will also be discussed, that is, the detection of HPV DNA, RNA, and the HPV surrogate marker, p16 in tumor tissues, as well as HPV-specific antibodies in serum. Such methods do not allow for the early detection of HPV-associated HNSCC and most cases are at an advanced stage upon diagnosis. Novel noninvasive approaches using oral fluid, a clinically relevant biological fluid, allow for the detection of HPV and cellular alterations in infected cells, which may aid in the early detection and HPV-typing of HNSCC tumors. Noninvasive diagnostic methods will enable early detection and intervention, leading to a significant reduction in mortality and morbidity associated with HNSCC.