Thursday September 4, 2003
Dear Dr. Mady: I am a thirty-nine year old male. I recently visited my dentist for a routine check-up and cleaning and he discovered four wart-like growths on my tongue. He referred me to an oral surgeon to have them removed and sent for biopsy, but he thinks they are most likely genital warts. What are genital warts, how does someone get them, and how will the surgeon get rid of them? –M.S.
Dear M.S.: Genital warts are caused by a virus known as human papillovirus or HPV. This particular virus has more than one hundred variations and there a few that cause genital warts.
The most common way of attaining these warts from an infected individual is through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. This is usually via oral, vaginal or anal sex.
There are commonly no symptoms associated with these growths and they sometimes don’t appear until months or even years after contact. Occasionally they cause itching, burning, pain and bleeding. It is even possible to never develop warts and still be infected.
Genital warts in the mouth typically appear as bumps or raised lesions that are cauliflower-like in appearance. They may also appear fleshy or even dark and are sometimes extremely difficult to recognize.
Genital strains of HPV can be spread to your mouth but it is not that common. You can transfer human papillomavirus from your mouth to your partner’s mouth or genitals at any time that the virus is present, even when you don’t have visible lesions yourself. The virus likes to live in warm and moist places because they are more conducive for growth. Also, a decreased immune system for either party can increase the risk of infection.
HPV can become dangerous. It is more common in women and is the most common cause of cervical cancer. This virus can also cause cancer in men. Eighty percent of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.
Treatment can decrease the risk and occurrence of cancer. Modalities include surgical removal, freezing with liquid nitrogen, burning off or removal by laser. Some topical medications can help. Your physician, dentist and or oral surgeon will determine which treatment option is best for you. It will most likely consist of local anesthesia, surgical removal and biopsy testing. After removal, be sure that the lesions don’t recur and take action immediately if others develop.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5