Oral HPV causes no signs or symptoms in most people, and the virus goes away on its own, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In rare cases, oral HPV can lead to cancers of the head and neck. Some common signs and symptoms of cancers caused by oral HPV include frequent sore throats, hoarseness, earaches, enlarged lymph nodes, pain when swallowing and unexplained weight loss.
Other low-risk types of oral HPV can cause warts in the mouth and throat, according to the CDC. While studies show that up to 7 percent of the United States population has oral HPV, only 1 percent has the strain of HPV responsible for causing cancers of the head and throat, as of 2014. HPV causes cancer by turning normal cells abnormal, a process that is typically not felt by the human body.
According to the CDC, most HPV infections clear on their own without intervention. When the infection does not clear, it can, over the course of many years, result in cancer. This typically occurs when a person smokes or chews tobacco in conjunction with having the virus, and the HPV interacts with these elements to cause cancer. Studies suggest that oral HPV can be transmitted through mouth-to-genital contact with a person infected with HPV. As of 2014, there are no FDA-approved tests for oral HPV.