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What Human Papilloma Virus can mean for your oral health

What Human Papilloma Virus can mean for your oral health

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Lately there has been a lot of buzz about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine. While most people know that HPV can cause skin lesions (warts) and are linked to 90% of cervical cancers, you may be wondering why your Cary NC dentist would be talking about HPV.

Recent studies show that the same high-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer also cause cancers of the mouth, tongue, tonsils and throat.  Along with excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, specific types of HPV are now being considered a serious risk factor for cancers of the head and neck.

How is HPV spread?

Transmission of lower risk strains of the virus can occur through close contact with someone that is infected. However, the more serious types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer or oral cancer are typically sexually transmitted although it can be spread through other means. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the spread of HPV through non-sexual contact.

What are the signs and symptoms of Oral HPV infections?

Oral HPV infections can present in a variety of ways and symptoms depend on the type of virus in the infection.  Low risk oral HPV types lead to a wart or papilloma. High risk oral HPV may appear as a sore that won’t heal and is a sign of potential cancer.

How do I know if I have an Oral HPV infection?

Early oral HPV infections are hard to detect because they don’t typically cause clinical signs and symptoms and cannot be diagnosed through a visual exam. Stanley Dentistry can perform a simple test (OraRisk HPV test)  as part of your professional cleaning and oral health exam. This test uses a sterile saline rinse to determine if an oral HPV infection is present.

Who should be tested for Oral HPV?

  • Smokers
  • Those who consume alcohol
  • Sexually active males & females
  • People with a family history of oral cancer

If I test positive for Oral HPV, does it mean I have cancer?

A positive test does not necessarily mean that cancer is present, nor does it mean that you will develop cancer.  However, the earlier it is detected, the more likely it can be successfully treated. Your dentist will discuss your options and work with you to develop a suitable treatment plan.

If you or someone you know are at risk for or are concerned about HPV and/or oral cancer, call Stanley Dentistry in Cary NC today!

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