Oral HPV – Symptoms, Tests, Treatment & Prevention

HPV – Human papillomavirus is the reason behind various warts and can also cause cervical cancer in women. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease across the United States and spread via skin-to-skin contact.

Also, it is so common that almost everyone gets infected with HPV at some point in their life. [01]

[thrive_text_block color=”blue”]Oral HPV aka HPV in the mouth is caused by the colonization of human papillomavirus in the oral cavity. Often triggered due to having oral sex with someone that has genital warts or dormant genital HPV infection.

HPV causes wart formation in the mouth, back of tongue, lips, and throat. These warts look like cauliflower-like growth. Usually, warts subside on their own, but it may take years. So, it can be treated with the various method including surgery & cryotherapy. [/thrive_text_block]

HPV has more than 200 types and out of these 40 varieties can cause genital warts and spread via sexual contact. These 40 varieties can cause warts on male & female genital areas, throat and mouth.[02]

HPV in Mouth: What Does it Look Like?

HPV on mouth spread via sexual contact and can colonize themselves on various part of mouth and throat. They can colonize on lips, an area around lips, tongue, back of tongue, throat and even gums.

Warts on Tongue

They trigger the growth of oral warts over all these areas which become difficult to treat due to its location is hard to reach easily.


Oral HPV caused due to the spread of human papillomavirus via skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with it. It can be due to performing vaginal, anal or oral sex.
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Can you get HPV from oral sex?

If you have sex with a person who is infected with the human papillomavirus on their genitals, then there are high chances that you will get infected with HPV too.

The answer is YES, if your sexual partner has genital HPV or genital warts then you will get it too, no matter whether you perform oral sex or penetrative sex (vaginal or anal).[/thrive_text_block]

Prevalence of Tonsillar HPV

A study conducted from 2009 to 2010 during United States national health survey shows that almost 6.9% of men & woman of age between 14 to 69 years has tonsillar HPV. [03]

Study also put emphasis on the types of HPV that cause oral warts and leads to cancer. They found that almost 1% of 5500 people enrolled in the study has the HPV-16 infection. HPV-16 is a type of human papillomavirus that known to cause cervical & oropharyngeal cancers.


Usually, HPV infection is dormant and don’t cause any symptoms in many people. This is a primary reason that people won’t recognize that they are infected with HPV. So, they fail to treat and prevent it from spreading further.

But in some cases, it can lead to the formation of oral, tonsillar or throat warts. Though chances of such wart growth are very uncommon, it can lead to a serious issue – Oropharyngeal cancer.

HPV 16 and a few other types are oncogenic, means they can cause cancer in the cervical region, oral cavity and throat.

[thrive_text_block color=”orange”]Here are some symptoms that raise suspicion of HPV in the mouth that may lead to cancer:

  1. Cauliflower-like growth in mouth, tongue, tonsil & throat.
  2. Discoloration of mouth tissues – often red, black or white in color.
  3. Pain in a throat that increase on swallowing.
  4. The sensation of something in the throat while swallowing.
  5. Coughing constantly & coughing up blood
  6. Unexplained weight loss.
  7. Hoarsness of voice that not going away.
  8. Lumps formation on cheeks or outside of the neck.[/thrive_text_block]

Oral HPV Test

There are currently no any FDA approved test available that may help to detect an oral HPV infection. Also, no any test for HPV detection men. But for a woman, a cervical smear test can be done to screen her for cervical cancer as well as the presence of HPV DNA.

OraRisk® HPV – an easy to use and non-invasive kit by Oral DNA labs are available and they claim it can identify more than 51 types HPV but there is insufficient evidence that it might work to detect the HPV and more studies need to be done to see how effective it can to identify the HPV in mouth. [04]

[01] STD Surveillance 2016 – Human Papillomavirus (September 26, 2017) https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats16/other.htm#hpv
[02] Doorbar J, Egawa N, Griffin H, Kranjec C, Murakami I. Human papillomavirus molecular biology and disease association. Reviews in Medical Virology. 2015;25(Suppl Suppl 1):2-23. doi: 10.1002/rmv.1822.
[03] “Prevalence of Oral HPV Infection in the United States, 2009-2010” JAMA. 2012;307(7):693-703 Published online January 26, 2012. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.101
[04] Michael Hosking, DDS. ane Chadwick, DDS. “Insufficient Evidence Available to Support the Use of OraRisk HPV Salivary Diagnostic Test” https://cats.uthscsa.edu/found_cats_view.php?id=2525