HPV and Oral Sex

Couple kissing in bed

What Is HPV?

HPV is a virus that infects several parts of the body, including the skin, mouth, genitals, and anus. When it contaminates the mouth, it may increase the risk of mouth or throat cancer.

Other risk factors for this type of cancer include smoking and heavy drinking. You should consult with your primary care physician and dentist about your risk of HPV and oral diseases.

How is Oral Health connected to HPV?

HPV can be transmitted through oral sex. If your partner has genital HPV and you engage in oral sex, you may contract the virus. What’s more, having multiple sexual partners increases the likelihood of catching oral HPV.

How Can I Prevent Oral HPV?

HPV can get transmitted in asymptomatic individuals. The best way to protect yourself is to always use condoms and dental dams with all partners. A dental dam is a small, thin piece of latex that protects your mucosa during oral sex.

You can also opt for the HPV vaccine, which prevents the most dangerous strains of HPV. According to guidelines, males and females aged 11 and 26 should get vaccinated.

Consult your healthcare provider about getting the HPV vaccine. For more information about the HPV vaccine, visit this website.

What Are the Warning Signs of HPV?

Oftentimes, HPV does not precipitate any symptoms. The virus could cause warts or sores in the mouth. Additionally, chronic infection with HPV could lead to mouth or throat cancer.

The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:

  • Persistent ulcers of the mouth
  • Dysphagia (i.e., painful swallowing)
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarse voice that will not heal
  • Swelling in the mouth or neck
  • Constant coughing
  • Feeling that your mouth and lips are numb
  • An earache on one side that lasts for more than a few days

How Are These Problems Treated?

It is important to protect yourself from HPV to prevent future health problems. There is currently no cure for oral HPV. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. In most cases, HPV infection heals spontaneously. However, you can still spread it to your partner even when you are not showing symptoms.

There may be certain medicines or treatments that heal oral warts.

For instance, you can limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking to reduce the risk of cancer. If the infection develops into mouth or throat cancer, treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are beneficial.  You and your primary healthcare professional will decide the best treatment options for you.

Questions for My Primary Health Care Professional

  • Do I need the HPV vaccine?
  • How can I get tested for HPV?
  • If I find out that I have oral HPV, what should I do to lower my risk of malignant tumors?
  • Is it possible to diagnose HPV when I’m asymptomatic?
  • Is it possible to spread oral HPV to my partner after my symptoms resolve?
  • How do I protect my partner from getting HPV?
  • Will HPV ever go away?
  • Will you examine my mouth during regular checkups?
  • You’re not a dentist— Why is it important for you to examine my mouth?