Oral Warts Treatment

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It may come as a surprise to you that warts, normally a condition associated with skin, can affect the inside of your mouth. Unfortunately this is the case, and warts that affect the inside of your mouth are referred to as oral warts. Ultimately the inside of your mouth is home to a different type of skin cell, and it is skin cells that are targeted by the wart causing infectious agent, HPV.

What is an oral wart?

An oral wart is basically a benign (harmless) skin growth on the inside of your mouth or lips. This type of wart often remains fairly discrete, and tends to occur either as individual growths or in small groups. While they tend to be rough in texture, oral warts can be white and dome shaped, or flat topped growths the same colour was your mouth, some oral warts can even be longer and thicker growths that resemble fronds.

Oral warts can be more irksome than other growths because they can become sore and irritated by the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, the movement of your tongue, and any accidental biting of the wart. When irritated an oral wart can affect simple processes like eating and drinking, but despite this the condition remains quite harmless and perfectly treatable.

Oral warts are particularly common in people suffering from an immune deficiency like HIV or AIDS. In these rare cases the body is unable to do what it normally does when faced with an infection, and so warts can grow unchecked with minimal interference from the body’s natural defence against disease.  

What causes an oral wart?

The prevalence of oral warts has increased in more recent years because of the social acceptability of the practice of oral sex. Oral warts typically develop after engaging in oral sex with someone carrying genital warts, as well as kissing anyone with oral warts. It’s not the warts themselves that are transferred, but the virus responsible for the growth of the wart in the first place, the human papillomavirus (HPV). The human papillomavirus is a remarkably simple structure considering that it can cause the growth of a cluster of irksome warts, and is little more than DNA enveloped in protective protein. The virus acts by moving into a type of skin call called epithelium, where it replicates and fuels cell growth, the latter effect being the one responsible for the growth of the actual wart.

There are in fact many different types of HPV, and the HPV 13 and 32 strains are the ones generally responsible for oral warts. Other strains of the virus have also been implicated like HPV2, 6, and 11. Oral warts are more of a cause for concern as they are linked to the development of mouth cancers, so if you do see what you suspect to be a growth within your mouth it is always best to go to your GP and get a professional opinion on the matter.

Can oral warts be treated?

Oral warts are very treatable, and some cases will resolve themselves over time. As mentioned above oral warts tend to be more of a concern because of the potential for cancer, and arranging a doctor’s appointment upon noticing any growths is important. Your doctor will be able to give you the best advice on how to deal with oral warts. Traditionally wart treatments are creams or gels that you apply to the surface of the growth, but in the case of oral warts these aren’t an effective choice because of the sensitivity of your mouth to chemicals and the fact that oral warts can be quite hard to reach. Treatment options include surgical excision of the wart, or the use of cryotherapy, laser treatments, or injections. Injection treatments will involve inserting a substance called Interferon Alpha, which stimulates an immune action against the warts in your mouth to remove them. Cryotherapy will involve the use of nitrous oxide or liquid nitrogen to freeze warts, resulting in their removal. Finally laser treatments are based on targeting blood vessels within a wart, which boil and seal up the wart.

How can I prevent oral warts?

Good hygiene and certain practices are the best way to avoid oral warts For instance when engaging in oral sex always use a condom to avoid potential contact with wart causing HPV. This isn’t a 100% guarantee against infection, ideally you should completely avoid oral sex with anyone with an infection.

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