HPV and Oral Health
The link between HPV and oral cancers.
The HPV (human papillomavirus) largely affects younger people and is sexually transmitted. In the US, it is the most widely transmitted disease in this manner. Although we may be somewhat reserved about discussing these topics in the UK, it is essential that more is understood about HPV and your oral health.
What is HPV
There are actually over 200 strains of HPV although most of these are relatively harmless and unlikely to cause cancer. However, the 15 or so strains that are, can cause serious damage to health if not detected early. Unlike many viruses, you can have the HPV virus with no symptoms which can lead it to become more advanced without you even being aware of it.
The connection with oral cancer
It may come as a surprise to some of our patients at the Foxhall Dental Practice, that HPV is actually the leading cause of cancers that occur at the very rear of the mouth and is equally likely in both males and females. Perhaps surprisingly, as smoking is known to be a major risk factor for oral cancers in general, the largest risk group for oral cancers caused by the HPV virus are non smoking men aged between 35 and 55.
There are a number of factors which can increase the risk of having HPV and these include the number of sexual partners and also oral sex. Those with weaker immune systems are also likely to be more at risk.
Symptoms relating to oral cancers
Once oral health problems related to HPV start to occur, they may be similar to those caused by smoking and other health risk factors. Some symptoms which our Ipswich dental patients should be aware of are:
● Ulcers that, after two to three weeks, still have not healed
● Pain caused when chewing food
● Discomfort or difficulty in swallowing
● Numbness in the oral area
● Coughing on a regular basis
These are just some of the symptoms which can help dentists to detect potential oral cancers and it is therefore important for patients not to ignore the signs, such as numbness, that we would not be visibly able to detect. Our team at the Foxhall Dental Practice need to hear how you are feeling as well as inspecting your teeth, and we would ask patients not to hold back if you have any of these symptoms.
The only sure way to detect whether you have HPV or not is to be tested for it. Naturally, you are more likely to do so if you have symptoms which may indicate its possibility. To have a check for the HPV virus, you will need to contact your GP.
The role of the dentist
There is currently no actual cure for the virus, and, in most cases, it will die out within a couple of years. Providing that this happens, it is unlikely that any major harm will have been done to health. Where the virus has lasted longer though, initial oral cancer symptoms may start to show which need to be checked out and then treated.
Because our dental team are in an excellent position to spot early potential signs of oral cancers, such as sore spots and minor lesions; we may recommend to our patients that they visit their GP to have these looked at. It is important not to panic though. We are NOT trained to actually diagnose cancers and, in most cases, any symptoms may turn out to be non cancerous. Our policy at the Foxhall dental practice though is safety first for our patients and we do recommend that our advice is followed.
To this end, one of the most important measures that you can take to prevent oral cancers from causing major harm is to ensure that you regularly have your oral cavity checked at your local Ipswich dentist.
To make an appointment, please call us on 01473 258396.