While many people are aware of HPV, both the benign and dangerous variations, they don't necessarily know or understand how this virus can affect the gums and the mouth. There are over 80 strains of the human papilloma virus. There are only two strains that are directly linked to cervical cancer, which is the surface cells around the uterus being negatively impacted and turning cancerous. This means that the majority of strains are effectively harmless. However, they may cause benign-like growths in parts of the mouth, namely on the gums. These lesions may be hard to understand and even more difficult to spot, as many don't examine their gums as regularly as they should.
The virus can be transferred by the warts on the hands to the mouth through oral mucosa, which is the mucus that the body naturally produces. It is quite uncommon for adults to get these types of warts as they likely have already built up an immunity to the applicable strains of the virus. The types of HPV of the mouth can vary, but it is believed that the most common way that this virus is transmitted it through sexual contact. These risks are heightened in an obvious way if the number of sexual partners is high.
Another prevalent risk factor is being a smoker. Smoking is obviously bad for your oral health and may increase the likeliness you are at risk for contracting this virus.
How To Detect It
What's so interesting about oral papilloma is that sometimes it doesn't even show itself when it comes to the symptoms that you can suffer from. Some people that have it actually don't experience any symptoms at all, yet they have the virus lying dormant in their mouths. In very severe cases, the presence of tonsillar HPV infections can be the cause of oropharyngeal cancer.
Even though millions of Americans have been diagnosed with tonsillar HPV roughly only 15,000 test positive for oral cancer on an annual basis. So although those odds are pretty good, it's still scary to think that something like oral papilloma could lead to something as disastrous as cancer.
The only way that oral papilloma can be detected is through testing. Even if you think you have a spot on your gums that isn't normally there or feels a bit weird, it's best to get the second opinion of a doctor. Any form of precancerous or cancerous tonsillar HPV that is present can only be effectively detected via an examination or screening that only a doctor or a dentist can perform. Because not all signs of the virus can be seen by the naked eye, a trained professional would need to use specific tools and techniques to completely examine the gums, throat and cheeks.
Visit your dental hygienist if you have the slightest inkling you may have this virus. If you have a sore of scratchy throat that lasts a long time, or if you find that your gums are sore or bleeding, you may want to have a test just to double check.
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