STDs and Oral Health

Can having a sexually transmitted infection affect your oral health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported each year. And some of these diseases come with symptoms that can affect your mouth.

STDs that can have an impact on your mouth include the human papilloma virus and herpes.

The human papilloma virus, known as HPV, is the most common STD in the United States, with 14 million new cases each year, according to CDC. Some strands of HPV can affect the mouth and throat, and some high-risk strains are associated with oropharyngeal cancers—those cancers that take place at the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate and the walls of the pharynx. Early diagnosis can happen during routine dental checkups, so be sure to see your dentist regularly.

Low-risk strains of HPV may cause warts or lesions in your mouth or throat. Aside from their appearance, they often have no (or very few) symptoms, are painless and non-cancerous. Mouth warts can reappear from time to time so your dentist or physician may recommend having them surgically removed.

Herpes simplex virus type 1 is most commonly associated with cold sores and other mouth lesions. During an outbreak, you may see blisters in your mouth. They could be clear, pink, red, yellow or gray. When they pop, you may feel pain when you try to swallow or eat. They generally heal within 7-10 days, and your dentist can prescribe medicine to reduce the pain. Symptoms of herpes can also include fever and fatigue. Be sure to talk to your physician about the best way for you to manage the disease.

While not all STDs are curable, they are treatable. Your dentist is an important part of your health care team. Visit MouthHealthy.org to learn how these infections can impact your mouth.

To learn more about preventing sexually transmitted diseases visit CDC.gov.

© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.