HOTLINE: Can you get an STD from oral sex?


We hear this question a lot from people who call our support line.  It’s a great and important question about a confusing and rarely discussed topic.  We know that unprotected vaginal and anal sex are definitely risky, but can you really get an STD from giving or receiving oral sex?  And which poses a higher risk, giving or receiving?

Flat out, yes.

You can get an STD from giving or receiving oral sex.  It’s a relatively lower risk activity for some of the infections, but we don’t see the point in detailing the relative risk level for each STD.

Why take the chance at all?  If you think it’s a small risk, it’s still a risk, right?

Going without a condom or a dental dam while performing or receiving oral sex is unsafe sex.  Be especially careful performing oral sex without protection. Think about it.  If you have cuts or sores in your mouth, bacteria or a virus can spread.  This true even when symptoms aren’t present in your partner.  It’s also possible to get throat infections and even throat cancer from unprotected oral sex.  Yes, this is unpleasant to think about it, but it’s a fact.

Your best defense?  Use a condom or dental dam.  They may seem unsexy or less intimate, but in the end, wouldn’t you rather have the faint taste of plastic for a few minutes than deal with a lifetime of suspicious oral infections or worse? By the way, condoms come in flavors, just for this occasion. It turns out that, overall, when it comes to oral sex, it is “safer” to receive than to give.  So, give the gift of health and wrap it or dam it before you tap it.  (Yeah, that slogan’s still in the shop.  We’re working on it!)

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29 Comments

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  1. 1
    Curious Girl

    I really enjoyed this blog. I learned a lot and I never knew that I could get an std from oral. The dental dam is an interesting concept and I will do some more research. Thank you for helping me!

  2. 3
    Brandi

    What is a dental dam and is there somewhere I can receive more information about dental dams?

    The article spoke about flavored condoms, are there flavored dental dams?

  3. 5
    Anne Sunseri

    I was shocked to learn it is possible to contract throat infections and/or cancer from stds! What stds cause these problems?

  4. 6
    Michelle

    Thanks for your question, as82. Yes, unprotected oral sex can lead to infections in the throat and can cause more serious complications, including throat cancer. U.S. News and World Report ran an article about HPV-related throat cancer related to a longitudinal study from Johns Hopkins on the incidence and rise of HPV-related oral cancer among people in their 40s from 1973-2004. “HPV is a particularly scurrilous threat, since it incubates silently in the back of the mouth and is now linked to a dangerous form of throat cancer in both men and women similar to the one that arises in the cervix.”

    Gonorrhea can also be the source of throat infections. If you perform oral sex, and that person has gonorrhea, you can get the infection in your throat. Although this infection can be happen when giving oral sex to a woman, there is a greater chance of infection when performing oral sex on a man. Left untreated, there is a chance the infection can spread to the bloodstream causing a rare but serious complication called “Disseminated Gonococcal Infection” or DGI which can be life-threatening.

    Bottom line? Get tested. Practice safe oral sex. We wish you the best of health.

  5. 7
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  7. 16
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