February 19, 2009

HPV can be detected by dental device

Oral human papillomavirus can be detected using a VELscope, a device used by dentists to harden cavity fillings, U.S. researchers said.

Study author John C. Comisi said he discovered that the blue light emitted by the VELscope also detects cancerous oral tissue.

The study explains that when emitting a specific wavelength of light into the mouth, oral fluorescence occurs, which in turn causes the tissue to emit its own light -- called natural fluorescence.

The VELscope produces a blue light that excites the oral tissue cells. Healthy cells will fluoresce back and appear green in color, while damaged and unhealthy cells will not fluoresce and thus appear as black or dark maroon areas against the green surrounding tissue, Comisi said.

Surgery can remove cancerous lesions, but typically if they are found at a late stage, the surgery can be extensive, Comisi said in a statement. Only early detection can help to minimize the extent of surgery needed to eradicate the disease. The earlier a lesion is detected, the higher the rate of survival.

Anyone who notices abnormal growths, discoloration, tenderness or bleeding should contact a dentist right away, Comisi said.

The findings were published in General Dentistry.