Can Oral Sex Damage your Teeth?

What You Really Need to Know about Oral Sex

When most people are thinking about oral sex, probably the last thing on their mind is whether or not it can be harmful. In fact, some people think that it is not harmful because it is not actual sex. The truth is that oral sex can hurt your mouth and teeth.

The Bacteria

There are many different kinds of bacteria in the mouth, about 700 of them. Even more bacteria can be picked up during oral sex and they can give that person a new disease – or you could pick up a new one. Nearly every STD can be passed from one person to the next through engaging in oral sex. When it comes to what damage could happen to the mouth or teeth, the answer might surprise you.

One STD in particular – human papillomavirus  (HPV) – is of special concern. This STD may lead to oral cancer. It can easily be transferred to the oral cavity by having contact with bodily fluids found in precum, saliva, semen, secretions from the vagina, and in menstrual blood.

About Oral Cancer

More than 51,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. The numbers are increasing each year, and about 20 percent or more than 10,000 people will die from it. Men are twice more likely to develop this type of cancer than are women.

Oral cancer can occur in several forms, including mouth cancer, throat cancer, and tongue cancer. Even though the death rate has been decreasing, the number of people that get this type of HPV-related cancer is increasing. This cancer will not usually show up until around 62 (average), but young people can also develop it.

This type of cancer will often spread fast, due to the presence of many blood vessels in the head and neck. Some of these oral cancers are only detected after they have reached the advanced stages. This means that they have already metastasized to nearby structures. They may also develop secondary cancers in the voice box, esophagus, or in the lung.

The Survival Rate

HPV-related oral cancers are really not that common. There are about 40 different types of HPV, and only a couple of them (HPV-16) are notable for causing cancer. The number of people who will get oral cancer from HPV is about 10,000, and about four times as many men will get it than women. About 70 percent of the cases of oropharyngeal cancer are caused by HPV.

Most people (84%) who develop oral cancer that is spotted and treated early can expect to live more than five years after treatment. When the cancer is spotted in an advanced stage, the survival rate is about 39 percent that they will still be alive in five years.

Discovery of Oral Cancer

The dentist is the primary professional who will discover oral cancer in most people. This is why making regular dental appointments is important and could actually save your life. A dentist is trained to recognize mouth cancers and can even perform basic diagnostic tests.

A problem with this is that these cancers caused by HPV are not easy to spot. Many of the HPV tests that are currently on the market cannot spot cancer that comes from it either. Oropharyngeal cancer – usually starts in a difficult to spot location – at the back of the tongue or within the folds of the tonsils. Discovering them in these locations requires a more thorough examination of the head and neck.

Signs of Oral Cancer

In many cases, the first oral HPV symptom is the presence of a lump in the throat. This may be the only first evidence of an HPV-related oral cancer and it may not be accompanied by any other symptoms.

Other types of oral cancer may have symptoms. Some mouth sores and other problems can start out as ordinary looking mouth problems, such as canker sores, etc. Symptoms that may be present include:

  • A sore throat that does not go away

  • Being hoarse

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Earaches

  • Weight loss that cannot be explained.

The Vaccinations

The presence of HPV is not easily known, so many people who have it do not even know it. Most of the time, a healthy body is able to eliminate it by itself. For some reason, in about 10 percent of people that get HPV, the body is not able to get rid of it.

HPV can stay dormant for many years, and then begin to cause problems. Tests can detect its presence, and there are two vaccines to help eliminate it – Gardasil and Cervarix. Another advantage for women getting the vaccination is that almost all cases of cervical cancer are HPV caused. Both men and women can be vaccinated.

Risks Factors of Oral Cancer

Apart from HPV, the biggest risk factors for oral cancer are alcohol and tobacco products. The more you smoke or drink – the greater the risk. The risk is also greater for men if they have oral sex with more than six partners.

If you perform oral sex, you may also want to mention it to your dentist when you go for a dental exam. A dentist does not always conduct oral screening for cancers, but will if you ask.

If you live in the Carrollton, TX or Grapevine, TX areas and want oral cancer screening, you can get it from the offices of Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist. He also performs cosmetic dentistry and can treat periodontitis. You can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578, for a consultation or treatment.