Nearly 3500 participants between 30 and 69 years old took part in the study. Each participant was screened for 19 low-risk HPV types and 18 high-risk HPV types in the oral cavity.
Researchers analyzed oral health data including:
- self rating of overall oral health
- presence of gum disease
- use of mouthwash within the past 7 days
- number of teeth lost.
The researchers also examined data on age, gender, marital status, marijuana use, cigarette smoking, sexual habits, and other factors that might influence the HPV infection.
After analysis, the researchers concluded that those most likely to have oral HPV are males who smoke cigarettes, use marijuana, and have oral sex. HPV infections need wounds to enter and infect tissue. Ulcers, mucosal disruption, chronic inflammation all create portals for HPV entry into the oral cavity. Oral HPV currently causes 40% to 80% of oropharyngeal cancers.
While it might be awkward to bring up the topic of oral sex with your patients, UT Health Sciences Center researcher Thanh Cong Bui recommends emphasizing the importance of practicing good oral hygiene.
Informing your patients that a number of diseases and STDs can be prevented with regular brushing, flossing, and mouthwash use can be a great incentive for some individuals to improve their oral health.
While brushing teeth and washing hands aren't usually mentioned as equally effective ways to prevent the spread of certain diseases, dentists can help curb the spread of orally transmitted STDs by educating their patients on great oral hygiene. These discussions can also present an opportunity to offer new dental products being offered by your office.