Oral warts can appear anywhere within the oral cavity or on the lips, and are generally not painful unless they have been irritated or traumatized. Typically they are small and discrete, and there is usually only one or a small number of them present at any one time. Rough, and lumpy, they can appear in a number of different guises; as dome-shaped growths that may be white or the color of normal mucosa, flat-topped elevations that are the color of normal mucosa, or thickened frond-like growths. Oral warts are becoming more prevalent in our society with the increase of oral sex in the past decade.
Oral warts are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), a double-stranded DNA virus, of which there are more than 100 strains. They only infect humans and several members of the HPV family have been identified as being responsible for oral warts, including HPV13, HPV32, and HPV2 (Terai, M et al. Oral wart associated with human papilloma virus type 2. Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine 2007; 28 (3): 137-140) as well as HPV6 and HPV11. They spread by kissing, and oral-genital contact. Poor hygiene may also be to blame. Oral warts are more common in people with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV.
The mouth can feel sore as the warts develop, especially if they are irritated by food, the tongue or accidental biting. They can also interfere with eating and enjoyment of meals.
These types of warts may spontaneously disappear with time, though this is not always guaranteed. Oral warts are more dangerous than most other types of warts as they can lead to cancer. Therefore, if you notice any unusual growth in your mouth or on your lips a doctor must be consulted immediately. Oral warts can be destroyed and removed in a number of different ways, but because of their difficult-to-reach location topical creams have mixed results. So a medical practitioner may go to war on oral warts by opting for one of a variety of different methods including: surgical removal, freezing with cryotherapy, injecting the warts with interpheron alpha, or zapping them with a carbon dioxide laser. Even if these treatments are effective, they can be painful, and there’s always a possibility of the warts making an unscheduled return. Never attempt to remove a wart yourself by burning, cutting or any other method. There is a flurry of activity in the research field as scientists are trying to develop a vaccine that will be effective against all types of warts
To prevent oral warts, condoms should be used when engaging in oral sex. Dental dams are also useful for prevention of oral warts. Keep in mind that a condom will not cover all areas that are infected so it is not a guarantee that you will be protected. In order to 100% prevent being infected with HPV you must refrain from having sexual relations with an infected person.