There are numerous factors that could put you at a greater risk of developing oral cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. A patient who uses cigarettes, tobacco-containing products, or alcohol, or who has excessive sun exposure, can be at risk for developing this oral condition. When a patient has several of these risk factors, their overall risk for developing oral cancer is much greater than having one risk factor alone. However, the one getting a lot of attention in the dental community is HPV and its link to the development of oral cancer.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and the most common in the world. There are over 40 strains of HPV, and millions of Americans in their teenage years through middle age have one or more strains. It is not uncommon for a majority of sexually active people to have a positive test for one strain at some point in their life, although many remain undetected and do not pose any serious health risks. There are the exceptions, though.
HPV can colonize in your oral cavity, including the mouth and throat, but infecting the gums and linings of the oro-pharynx. Because of this, HPV has become the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer. Over the past 10 years there has been an overwhelming increase in the detection of this cancer, even in those who do not possess the other highly linked risk factors, i.e., smoking and alcohol use. This has led researchers to link HPV to the development of oral cancer.
There are some signs, such as a persistent sore throat or ear aches, hoarseness and pain when swallowing, but this is very generally and could be symptoms of many things. The CDC have recommended that all preteen boys and girls be vaccinated for HPV, and that patients should speak with their dentist about a positive HPV finding in the past. Regular visits to your dental health professional are essential to early detection, as we screen for oral cancer and can offer oral pap smears now to aid the finding of oral cancer before it fully develops.
At Katy Trail Dental, we are not just about teeth…we value people and their health first! Call to schedule today and discuss HPV with your dental health professional.