If you don’t take the right precautions, oral sex is not safer than vaginal or anal sex.
Most of the common STDs that are passed on through sexual intercourse can also be transmitted through oral sex.
You can get a sexually transmitted infection from someone with a genital or anal infection. You can also get a genital or anal infection if your sexual partner has an oral infection.
The most common sexually transmitted infections that you can get through oral sex include:
How Do STDs Spread Through Oral Sex?
All STDs spread through contact with infected body fluids like blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. That’s why anal and vaginal sex is the most common ways for STDs to spread since there is a lot of fluids involved.
But you can also come into contact with infected fluids during oral sex.
If someone has sores on their mouth or their genitals, you can get infected.
Remember it doesn’t matter who is performing oral sex, you or your partner. You can get an STI if your sex partner has an infection in their mouth or their genitals.
Depending on which parts of the body you come into contact with, you can get an oral infection that spreads to your throat or a genital/anal infection.
How Can I Tell I Have Gotten an STD Through Oral Sex?
Most STIs are asymptomatic in the beginning, meaning they don’t show any symptoms. So even after exposure to an STD via oral sex, you won’t immediately know whether you’ve been infected.
Over time, however, you may notice symptoms that affect your genitals or mouth and throat, depending on where you got the infection.
Some common STD symptoms include:
- Unusual discharge from vagina or penis. This discharge may sometimes contain blood.
- Burning pain when urinating.
- Sores near the infected area – this can be the penis, anus, vagina, mouth or throat.
- Swelling and pain in the testicles.
The best way to tell if you have an STD is to get STD tested regularly. Do not wait until symptoms show up.
If left untreated, STDs in the mouth and throat can spread to other parts of the body, cause throat cancer, and increase your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
Is Oral Sex Less Risky than Vaginal or Anal Sex?
Researchers are not sure whether there is a difference in risk between oral and vaginal or anal sex.
That’s because only a few studies are looking at the spread of STDs through oral sex.
It’s also hard to study the level of risk since people who have oral sex also usually have vaginal or anal sex. So it’s hard to tell how they got infected.
According to the CDC, HIV is the only sexually transmitted infection with a lower risk of transmission via oral sex compared to vaginal or anal sex.
For other STDs, several factors determine the level of risk.
- Having poor oral health. Tooth decay and bleeding gums increase the risk of contracting an infection.
- Having existing sores on your genitals or mouth greatly increases the risk of getting infected by a partner with an STD.
- Exposure to semen during oral sex.
How To Protect Yourself When Having Oral Sex
The best way to protect yourself is to make sure you and your sex partner don’t have any STDs.
But since it’s not always possible to tell when someone is infected, take the right precautions to protect yourself.
Here are some ways you can do that.
- Use a male condom when performing oral sex on a penis.
- Use a dental dam when performing oral sex on your partner’s vagina or anus. You can easily buy dental dams online.
- If you don’t have a dental dam on hand, the CDC says you can tear a square piece from an ordinary condom and cover the vagina or anus.
These protections don’t guarantee that you won’t get an STD from oral sex. But they significantly reduce your risk.
To further reduce your risk, health experts say the best protection for sexually active adults is to be in a mutually monogamous relationship where both you and your partner have been tested negative for STDs.