There is no way of detecting HPV in the mouth. Even if there were, it may not be useful to do so, because there are almost two hundred strains of HPV, of which only nine are known to cause cancer and only one is known to cause throat cancer. HPV usually settles in the back of the mouth and top of the throat, a region called the oropharynx, which is difficult to observe in a way which is not extremely intrusive to the patient. Even if tissue samples were to be scraped from the throat, the tissue is so creviced that random samples would probably not catch infections.
Patients should be aware that simply because they do not smoke does not mean they are not at risk for oral cancer. They can help us catch it by requesting a screening if they notice pain, numbness, or swelling in their throat, jaw, or ears. Though oral cancer rates have risen due to HPV, the virus is treatable, which is why fatalities have continued to decline.
Dr. Michael Eisenbrock runs Bensalem Dentistry at 3554 Hulmeville Road, Suite 111, Bensalem, Pennsylvania, 19020. To schedule an appointment, call 215-874-4042 or visit BensalemDentistry.com and fill out a contact sheet.