The term oral HPV refers to a viral infection caused by one of the human papillomavirus strains, of which about 30 are linked to mouth infections. This condition is highly contagious, and there are several ways it can be transmitted including kissing, oral to genital contact, and sometimes from an affected mother to child at the time of birth. Symptoms commonly include lesions or sores on various parts of the mouth such as the lips, palate, and tongue. It is not uncommon for the virus to lay dormant and be non symptomatic for months or years at a time. Treatments are available for use during outbreaks, but because oral HPV is a virus and lives in the body, there is no known permanent cure.
The most common place for the lesions associated with oral HPV to appear is on the lips, often in the form of cold sores or possibly even warts. Oral warts are most prevalent in HPV cases acquired through oral sex with an infected partner. The roof of the mouth or palate, the tongue, and other regions of the mouth including the buccal mucosa or inside of the cheek can manifest lesions as well, especially in a severe outbreak. When children are born with this type of infection, the lesions may be present on both the upper and lower tract of the respiratory system and can be removed surgically, but it is likely that future outbreaks will occur.
It is not unusual for oral HPV occurrences to be linked with other diseases of the oral cavities such as oropharyngeal cancer and oral condylomas. The presence of other oral diseases can cause more frequent outbreaks of HPV symptoms and lesions. A higher frequency of outbreaks is also the case for patients with suppressed immune system function due to diseases such as HIV, and transplant patients that must take anti rejection medications for the rest of their lives.
Preventing oral HPV can be difficult because it is a highly transmittable communicable disease that affects an estimated 80% of the population. In most cases, people with this virus may never notice any symptoms and this characteristic of the disease is part of the reason it is so easy to spread. Medical experts recommend avoiding oral sex with multiple partners, not kissing or having oral contact with anyone currently displaying lesions, and also having any unusual oral sore or lesion checked by a medical professional as quickly as possible.