Causes & Risk Factors, STD

Is Oral Sex Really Safe Sex?

February 20, 2018

A lot of men and women question whether oral sex is really sex. This depends upon how you define sex, however, one thing is clear. Oral sex is not inherently safe sex. Oral intercourse STDs are definitely a hazard, at least if you don’t take appropriate precautions. Below, you will find overview of some frequent oral sexual STDs and the risk of STD transmission through oral sex.


Oral sex is a relatively low-risk activity for HIV transmission, particularly when compared to anal or vaginal intercourse.

But, although such transmission is uncommon, it is likely to transmit HIV through oral sex. Using latex or polyurethane condoms, female condoms, or dental dams is an effective means to reduce your odds of contracting the virus if engaging in oral sex. If you don’t choose to use protection for oral sex, then you should know that the risk of HIV transmission increases:

  • If the person performing the action has sores or cuts in his/her mouth,
  • if ejaculation takes place at the mouth
  • when the individual receiving oral sex has some other sexually transmitted diseases.

The danger of oral HIV transmission is largely for the person performing the oral sex. Unless a spouse has significant amounts of blood inside his/her mouth, such as from dental surgery, oral intercourse is unlikely to expose the receptive partner to HIV.


Though genital herpes and oral herpes are usually caused by different strains of the herpes virus, HSV-2 and HSV-1 respectively, it’s possible for virus to infect site.

Because of this, it’s possible to transmit herpes during oral sex. Furthermore, unlike with HIV, the herpes virus may spread from partner during anal intercourse.

Herpes transmission during oral sex is a considerable risk. Herpes is contagious even if symptoms are not present. Prophylactic drugs, such as Zovirax (acyclovir), can lessen the likelihood of outbreaks and hauling the herpes virus to your partner, but they may not eliminate the risk entirely.

Condoms and other barriers should be able to greatly reduce the risk of giving a partner herpes through oral sex. However,  condoms aren’t totally effective, since the virus can spread from skin to skin.


It is likely to spread HPV through oral intercourse. In reality, it’s thought that HPV acquired while performing oral sex is a major risk factor for oral and throat ailments. HPV may also look at the oral cavity through vertical transmission (transmission from mother to child during birth). Much like herpes, it appears possible that the use of condoms or dental dams during oral sex should reduce the risk of disease, but they won’t necessarily remove it completely. This is because, as with herpes, HPV spreads through skin-to-skin contact, not through bodily fluids.


In the last several decades, teens with neck infections caused by gonorrhea have frequently been at the news. Gonorrhea can be transmitted in both directions when oral sex is performed on a man, and throat infections with gonorrhea are notoriously difficult to treat. There’s limited research to suggest that it may be possible for someone to acquire a gonorrhea throat infection while performing oral sex on a woman. However, transmission in the other direction is comparatively unlikely since the website of disease is your cervix.

That’s part of the female anatomy not usually reached during cunnilingus. Condoms and dental dams must be extremely helpful in preventing transmission of gonorrhea during oral sex.


It is likely to transmit chlamydia through fellatio. With this STD and oral sex, the recipient and the individual performing the act are at risk. There’s been little study on whether it’s likely to carry out chlamydia during cunnilingus. However, because of the similarity of the diseases, the infection risk is most likely much like that for gonorrhea.


Syphilis is quite simple to transmit via oral sex.

In reality, in some areas of the United States, oral sex has been proven to be in charge of as many as 15 percent of syphilis cases. Though syphilis can only be transmitted in the existence of symptoms, throughout the primary and secondary phases of the illness, the painless sores it causes are easy to miss. Therefore, many people don’t understand they’ve syphilis symptoms when they transmit syphilis for their spouse.

Hepatitis B

The research is inconclusive as to whether or not hepatitis B can be transmitted via oral sex. Oral-anal contact, however, is definitely a risk factor for hepatitis A disease. It might also be a risk factor for hepatitis B. Luckily both hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccines. Should you exercise rimming, you should talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated. Vaccination is a great idea in any situation, and the hepatitis B vaccine is currently recommended for all children and many groups of adults.

Making Oral Sex Less Risky

It is possible to decrease the risk of getting an oral sexual STD by using obstacles through oral sex. That usually means using dental dams (either bought or made from gloves or condoms ) during cunnilingus and rimming and condoms during fellatio. Doing so won’t remove the risk of diseases like syphilis and herpes, which can be spread skin-to-skin. But, practicing safer sex will significantly lower the possibility of oral sex STDs.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, unprotected oral sex puts you at risk for numerous sexually transmitted diseases. Should you perform unprotected oral sex on your sexual partners, then you should mention it to a doctor. She may want to look at your throat when she’s screening you for other STDs.

Glynn TR, Operario D, Montgomery M, Almonte A, Chan PA.. The Duality of Oral Sex for Men Who Have Sex with Men: An Examination Into the Increase of Sexually Transmitted Infections Amid the Age of HIV Prevention. AIDS Patient Care STDS.  2017 Jun;31(6):261-267. doi: 10.1089/apc.2017.0027.