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The Link Between HPV and Oral Cancer

Posted May 20, 2019 in Oral Cancer

HPV (human papillomavirus) acronym on colorful wooden cubes

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and some types are known to cause cervical or oral cancer. What some may not be aware of is that it can be transmitted from one person to another through intercourse as well as oral sex. Because the current HPV vaccine only targets some forms of the disease and is limited to the genital area, patients must practice diligently safe oral sex. It is also important for patients to talk to their dentist about potential signs of oral cancer so that they can get the screenings and treatments they need.

Options for Oral Cancer Screening

Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Gentle Care Dentistry offers patients the most modern oral cancer screening technologies to identify abnormal cell growth in the mouth. We strive to make the process as comfortable and accurate as possible so that patients can get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.


If you have oral lesions that persist for longer than two weeks, it is imperative to have the area checked for signs of cancer. A biopsy is a diagnostic test that involves numbing the mouth, removing a small portion of the gum tissue in the affected region, and sending the tissue sample to a specialized dental lab for testing. After the tissue is examined, a diagnosis can be determined.


Another method of detecting oral cancer is taking digital x-rays of the target area. Panorex is a technologically-advanced device that takes a single panoramic x-ray of the entire mouth as well as the sinuses and neck. This procedure is painless and requires no anesthesia. It can also help to identify cysts in the jaw bone, impacted teeth, and symptoms of TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder).

Oral Cancer Prevention

Woman getting a dental exam

While HPV can play a role in the development of oral cancer, there are several risk factors patients should avoid to maintain optimal oral health. Some precautions patients can take are:

  • Practicing safe oral sex: Many products are available to form a protective barrier during oral sex. Using dental dams and condoms can reduce the risk of contracting HPV as well as other STDs.
  • Quitting all tobacco use: Chewing and smoking tobacco dramatically increases a person’s chance of oral cancer and other conditions.
  • Drinking less alcohol: Minimizing alcohol consumption to one or two drinks a day, patients can prevent sensitive tissues inside the mouth from becoming irritated and more vulnerable to cancer.
  • Going to the dentist: By scheduling dental exams at least twice per year, patients can get treatment as soon as any oral conditions, such as cancer and periodontal disease, develop. Regular cleanings also help maintain overall oral hygiene.

To schedule a dental exam or oral cancer screening, please contact Gentle Care Dentistry by calling (575) 524-3722 or by filling out our online contact form today!