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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Linked To Oral Cancer

Updated: Mar 11


Risk factors for oral cancer are changing. Classic risk factors of smoking and alcohol still point to increased incidence, but now human papillomavirus is rising to prominence as cause of oral cancer. We have known for quite some time that 98% of cervical cancers were caused by HPV. The same behaviors that spread HPV can also infect the mouth.

The cancer can be found in the throat as well causing difficulty swallowing, sore throat, ear pain and swellings in the neck. Dr. Brian Nussbaum, an ENT at Washington University, estimates that 70% of his throat cancer patients have tumors caused by HPV. The first connection between HPV and cervical cancer was reported in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the link between HPV and oral cancer was described.

Few dentists and even fewer medical doctors are equipped with the Vizialite system of early oral cancer screening. The system will detect stage I and II lesions. The usual “look see” type of examination detects more advanced lesions, stage III and IV. A vaccine, Guardasil, is clinically effective and widely available.   While this cancer has an excellent 3 year survival rate, almost 90%, to vaccinate teens and young adults is an excellent idea. The vaccine is commonly administered by family physicians.

Dental Oral Cancer Screening

When you visit your dentist for your regular dental exams to watch for issues with your teeth and gums, ask for an dental oral cancer screening.

A screening consists of feeling for lumps and/or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity. They will also thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues.

Since there have been a reported 30,000 new cases of oral cancer each year, it is a good idea to make sure your dentist does this evaluation. If you are not convinced that this is a good idea yet, keep in mind that the five-year survival rate for oral cancer is about 50 percent.

Oral cancer, if caught in its early stages, is much easier to beat. Treatment in later stages becomes much more painful including facial surgery with permanent facial and oral disfigurement.

It can also mean a great reduction in the quality of life. Losing parts of your mouth and jaw is no fun at all!

It is much easier to act first — be sure to ask your dentist for an oral cancer screening. Of course, in Dr. Snyder’s office, this screening is standard.

You can be observant as well. Look for possible warning signs of oral cancer to include:

  • Bleeding sores

  • Sores that do not heal

  • Lumps or thick, hard spots

  • Soreness or feeling that something is caught in the throat

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

  • Ear pain

  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue

  • Hoarseness

  • Numbness of the tongue

  • Changes in the way teeth fit together.

Don’t panic if you spot any one of these symptoms. Just head on into the dentist or other medical professional and ask for a opinion.

Dr. Snyder believes that everyone deserves a beautiful one-of-a-kind smile. She understands that your dental treatment is personal, from your personal decision to receive treatment, to the personal care you receive. With a different and gentle approach to dentistry, Dr. Snyder and her team believe that dentistry is and should be health and trust centered.

Advanced techniques like these are what make us the best Albuquerque Family Dentist

To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.

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