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Oral Sex and STDs

Can You Get Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) From Oral Sex?


Very few people who have sex only engage in one kind of sexual activity. In fact most of us will engage in many activities in one sexual encounter. This makes it difficult for researchers to say exactly how common it is for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to be transmitted by one activity alone, like oral sex. But we do know that many common STDs can be transmitted via oral sex, including:

About.com's Guide to Sexually Transmitted Diseases offers a detailed breakdown of different STDs and the risks of oral sex transmission. Below is a quick summary, and some tips on how to reduce the risk of giving or getting an STD during oral sex.

Chlamydia and Oral Sex
Oral sex is not considered a common cause of Chlamydia infection, but it is a possibility. If the vagina, cervix, anus, penis or mouth come in contact with infected secretions or fluids, then transmission is possible.

Gonorrhea can be passed during oral sex (either giving or receiving). Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Gonorrhea survives well in the throat, and gonorrhea throat infections from oral sex are relatively common.

Herpes can be transmitted via skin to skin contact, so the risks during oral sex are clear. It’s important to remember that transmission can occur even if there are no visible sores, and you or your partner may be infected with herpes and not know it. Some people are not aware that cold sores are a form of herpes.

While the risk is considered to be low, there have been documented cases of HIV transmission where the most likely way it was transmitted was through oral sex via semen, vaginal secretions or blood. HIV is not transmitted via saliva, and deep kissing is considered a safer sexual behavior. There have been cases of oral sex transmission during fellatio (performing oral sex on a man)and cunnilingus (performing oral sex on a woman).

HPV virus is shed from the surface of warts and any form of direct physical contact may result in transmission. There are some researchers who argue that there is a connection between oral sex, HPV, and throat cancers.

Most of the germs that cause NGU can be passed during oral sex, even if the penis or tongue doesn’t go all the way in to the vagina, mouth or rectum and even if body fluids are not exchanged.

Oral sex is considered an efficient way to transmit syphilis, with one CDC study reporting that more than 13% of syphilis cases in a geographic area were attributed to oral sex. Transmission usually occurs during vaginal, anal or oral sex when syphilitic sores or patches come in to contact with slightly abraded skin or mucous membranes.

Yeast Infections
There is evidence to suggest that women who have recurrent yeast infections may be infected by receiving oral sex. In one study, receiving oral sex had an association with an increased risk of recurrent yeast infections at three times the rate. Oral sex with someone who has a yeast infection can lead to thrush, which is a yeast infection in your throat. Oral contact with yeast will not give you a yeast infection in your vagina, because the yeast will be killed in your digestive system.

Safer Oral Sex Tips

Using barrier methods, including condoms and dental dams, is the best way to make oral sex safer. A lot of people who are worried about dealing with bodily fluids find that flavored condoms and dams also reduce their inhibitions and make them better at going down on their partners.

If a man ejaculates during oral sex in or around the mouth of his partner or if any ejaculate gets in his partners eyes, it greatly increases the risk of STD infection (if he is infected with an STD).

In many cases, a STD can be transmitted even if the penis or tongue doesn’t go all the way in to the vagina, mouth or rectum and even if it isn’t obvious that body fluids are exchanged.

Some educators suggest you avoid brushing your teeth prior to performing oral sex as you can cause small cuts or abrasions that could increase the risk of fluid transmission.


Preventing the Sexual Transmission of HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS: What You Should Know about Oral Sex. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

American Social Health Association.

Hook EW III, Handsfield HH. Gonococcal infections in the adult. In: Holmes KK, Mardh PA, Sparling PF, et al., eds. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1999:456.

Prevention of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Transmission of Primary and Secondary Syphilis by Oral Sex. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reed, B.D., Zazove, P., Pierson, C.L., et al. Candida Transmission and Sexual Behaviors as Risks for a Repeat Episode of Candida Vulvovaginitis Journal of Women's Health 12(10) 2003.

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