Oral Sex: Safety, Risks and Transmission of STDs

  • 4.5   (1 Votes)
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Deepika Tiwari - MBBS on 21 Dec 2018 - Written by Dr. Meenakshi Sauhta - MBBS - Grammatically Approved by Dr. Kavita Jaggi Agrawal - MBBS

Oral sex can put both the partners at risk of getting STDs. The most common STDs include oral herpes, syphilis and HIV. From the article get full knowledge of risks, signs and symptoms of STDs to stay safe. Avoiding oral sex, using a condom or dental dam are tips to reduce the risk of STDs.

Oral sex involves stimulation of partner's genitals using mouth, lips or tongue. However, there are ways to make the act safer. Safe cunnilingus also called oral-vaginal sex requires more preparation than oral-penile sex. There is no risk of getting pregnant through oral sex but there are more chances of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by having oral sex. Among adults, oral sex causes stress for some couples while it enhances intimacy for others. Using barrier protection may reduce the risk of getting STDs. A barrier can be a condom covering the penis, or a plastic or latex known as a dental dam which is placed over the vulva or anus.

In this article we will look at:

  1. What are the signs and symptoms of STDs?
  2. What are the Risks of Oral Sex (Transmission of STDs)?
  3. How does Oral Sex Affect a Relationship?
  4. What are the Tips to Reduce the Risk of STDs?

Signs and Symptoms of STDs

Unprotected oral sex can include any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Itches, rashes, lumps or blisters in or around the genitals, vagina, anus or mouth

symptoms of std

  • Unusual vaginal discharge 
  • Unusual discharge from the penis
  • Irritation, pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain in the testicles or lower abdomen
  • A sore throat.

Hepatitis A, B and C affect the liver, symptoms include:

  • Flu like-illness such as fever, general aches and headaches
  • Tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dark-colored urine or pale feces, or both
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Even if there are no symptoms, consult a doctor if:

  • You recently had unprotected sex or oral sex with someone new
  • You or your partner have unprotected sex with other people
  • Your partner has symptoms of an STD

It is important to get treatment for an STD as soon as possible. Some STDs cannot be treated but medications may reduce symptoms. Leaving an STD untreated may cause discomfort in the short term, and may harm a person’s health or fertility in the long term.

Risks of Oral Sex (Transmission of STDs)

Many experts suggest that oral sex is not a safe sex. However, it may be safer than unprotected genital sex but it can still carry a significant risk of catching or passing on Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs). The most common STIs that can be passed on through oral sex include the following:

  • Oral Herpes: It is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus causes painful sores on the lips, gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, and inner portion of the cheeks.

oral herpes

  • Gonorrhoea: It is a common STD that can be transmitted to the throat during oral sex, especially fellatio. The germ can cause inflammation, formation of pus and sometimes soreness. Gonorrhea mostly affects urethra, rectum or throat. In females, gonorrhea can also infect cervix.
  • Syphilis: Syphilis is a bacterial infection that starts as a painless sore typically on the genitals, rectum or mouth. Syphilis spreads from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores. 
  • Chlamydia: Chlamydia is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Women can get chlamydia in cervix, rectum, or throat while men can get chlamydia in urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat
  • Genital Warts: Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts can affect both men and women, but women are more vulnerable to complications. Genital warts can be treated, but they can come back unless the underlying infection is also treated.
  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect the liver's ability to function. Symptoms include tiredness, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite and jaundice.
  • Hepatitis B: It is an infection of liver caused by a virus that spreads through blood and bodily fluids.
  • Hepatitis C: Hepatitis mainly affects liver and can cause life-threatening damage to liver if left untreated. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain.
  • HIV: HIV virus can be transmitted from vagina of an infected woman to the partner performing cunnilingus. 
  • Pubic lice: Pubic lice are tiny insects that can be spread through oral sex. It can cause itching, inflammation and irritation of the skin.

Generally, the risk is higher when a person gives rather than receiving oral sex. This is because they are more likely to be exposed to genital fluids. The risk is also higher if they have cuts, sores or ulcers in their mouth. One should avoid brushing teeth or using dental floss shortly before giving oral sex as this could cause gums to bleed.

Oral Sex may affect a Relationship

Another risk of oral sex is a strain in relationship, particularly if one of the partners does not enjoy it or has concerns about it. One partner may have anxiety over their oral sexual performance or what their partner will think of them during oral sex. Oral sex can also make one partner feel under the other partner’s control. These are all important psychological issues to resolve before introducing oral sex into a relationship.

Tips to Reduce Risks of STDs

Avoiding oral sex altogether is the best way of reducing the risk of infection.

  • Limiting the number of sexual partners and not being pressurized into casual oral sex with an unfamiliar partner is an important factor in reducing infection risk. 
  • It is possible to enjoy oral sex using some form of protective barrier. For fellatio, there is a wide variety of flavored and scented condoms available, ranging from strawberry to curry and whiskey to lager and lime. For cunnilingus, a dental dam can be used that protects against mouth to genital contact during oral sex.
  • Having the anti-HPV vaccine can also reduce the risk of catching HPV through oral sex. It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible if a person feels that there is a risk of having any sexually transmitted disease
  • Mutual monogamy is another way to limit exposure to STDs. If neither partner had sexual contact with another person, there is no risk of STDs. If either person had sex with anyone before, then one should get tested.

Avoid oral sex if your partner:

  • Has an STD
  • Has sores, cuts, ulcers, blisters, warts or rashes around their genitals, mouth or anus
  • Has unhealed or inflamed piercings in their mouth or genitals
  • Has a throat infection
  • Is on her period

The risks of oral sex cannot be reduced by using mouthwash or brushing teeth, in fact brushing and flossing can cause abrasions on gums. This can increase the risk of infection. The best way to avoid infections is to know your sexual health status and that of your partner. If you have not done so yet, consult the doctor for an STD screen and encourage your partner to do the same.

If you are confused about the best fertility centres or doctors in Delhi, Elawoman can assist you. Consult Elawoman today to avail the best treatment and consult the best doctor at an affordable cost. For immediate answers, you can call us at +917899912611.

Dr. Meenakshi Sauhta

Written by

Laparoscopic Surgeon, Gynecologic Surgeon

Dr. Meenakshi Sauhta is an infertility specialist and laparoscopy surgeon has rich years of experience in the field of Gynecology and Infertility Evaluation. She did MBBS from Nagpur University in 1988, pursued MD in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Nagpur University in 1990 and MGIMS in 1994. She is a member of the Maharashtra Medical Council, Haryana Medical Council, and Indian Medical Association. Her specialization includes Tubectomy, Hysterectomy, Fibroid as well as Cyst Removal. She is working with Max Hospital in Gurgaon. You can get the contact details of Dr. Meenakshi Sauhta at elawoman.com


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1 Comment


Venugopala Vasudha

Dec. 21, 2018, 5:05 p.m. 4.5

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