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What Is Oral HPV?

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Oral hpv

Story at-a-glance -

  • Did you know that HPV may also appear in your mouth? This is known as oral HPV
  • HPV refers to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus, which has over 200 strains. This condition can also affect the moist membranes that line your body — including those in your mouth and throat
  • Discover important facts about oral HPV in this article

When many people hear about the human papillomavirus (HPV), the first thing they most likely think is that it's a genital-related illness. But did you know that HPV may also appear in your mouth? This is known as oral HPV. Discover important facts about oral HPV in this article.

Basics Facts About Oral HPV

HPV refers to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus, which has over 200 strains.1 It primarily infects your skin and genital areas, including the cervix, vulva, penis and anus. However, this condition can also affect the moist membranes that line the inside of your body — including those in your mouth and throat.2

The virus makes its way inside your body's mucosal areas through cuts and tears in your skin. Oral HPV can actually affect your tongue base, the back of your throat (oropharynx) and your tonsils.3 However, unless they have an HPV that causes warts, most people do not have any symptoms and are not aware that they are infected and infectious.4

Today, 7.3% of Americans between 14 and 69 years old suffer from oral HPV.5 This condition is more common in men than women, and is increasing dramatically. In fact, as of April 2019 the AP reported that more than 11 million men in the U.S. now are infected with oral HPV — more than previously believed. The HPV 16 strain, a high-risk type of HPV, is the most common type that causes oral HPV.6,7

How Does Oral HPV Spread?

The method by which people contract oral HPV has been a subject of debate. Some say that the virus is passed on through oral sex with a person with genital HPV, while others argue that it spreads through open-mouthed kissing with another person who has oral HPV.

In 2014, researchers from Canada offered more evidence that transmission can occur either through oral-to-genital or oral-to-oral contact.8 Published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention journal, the study involved 222 men and their female partners, and the HPV prevalence among the couples. The findings showed that:9

  • 7.2% of the men developed oral HPV
  • 17.9% of the infections occurred among men who are in nonmonogamous relationships
  • 28.6% of the men who developed the condition had a female partner who had oral HPV, while 11.5% had a female partner with genital HPV
  • In 12.2% of the men, smoking was a risk factor for the infection
  • The men's risk of HPV increased twofold the more they gave oral sex to their infected female partner

Furthermore, no HPV infections were seen in men whose partner did not have any type of HPV, as well as those who maintained a monogamous relationship or had never smoked. This confirms that the number of sex partners and smoking are significant risk factors for this illness.

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Poor Oral Health Is Also a Risk Factor

In addition to the risk factors mentioned above, poor oral health is perceived to be a risk factor in oral HPV infection.10 A study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that participants who had bad oral health had a 56% increased risk of developing the infection compared to those who have good oral practices.

Study participants who have gum disease had a 51% increased oral HPV risk, while those with dental ailments had a 28% higher risk. The number of teeth lost also correlates to the risk of oral HPV infections.11

Most Cases of Oral HPV Can Resolve Without Health Issues

If you have a robust immune system, HPV will go away on its own without any symptoms. However, if symptoms appear (oral warts), there are ways to treat them with the help of your physician.

As with any disease, prevention is still the best course of action. Maintaining good oral health, limiting sexual partners and using protection during intercourse are highly recommended to avoid this illness. You and your partner should also get tested for STIs.

MORE ABOUT HPV

HPV: Introduction

What Is HPV?

Oral HPV

How Is HPV Transmitted?

HPV Vaccine

HPV in Men

HPV in Women

HPV Types

HPV Causes

HPV Symptoms

HPV Warts

HPV Treatment

HPV Test

How to Get Rid of HPV

Living with HPV

Does HPV Go Away?

How Do You Get HPV?

Is HPV Curable?

Is HPV Contagious?

How Long Does HPV Last?

HPV FAQ

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