Is Oral Sex Safe?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Oral sex is common among adults who are sexually active. While oral sex isn’t completely risk-free when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you can take precautions to make oral sex safer and protect yourself from infection. Oral sex and your STD risk depend on the prevention methods you take every time you have oral sex. Learn more about how to reduce your risk of getting an oral STD and how to make oral sex safer with your partner.

Oral Sex and STD Risk

While you won’t need to worry about an unplanned pregnancy, oral sex does come with other potential risks—STDs in particular. Both men and women can be infected by giving or receiving oral sex from an infected partner.

Giving oral sex to an infected partner can result in getting an STD—for example, chlamydia—in the mouth and throat. In addition, someone with an oral STD in the mouth or throat can pass the infection to an uninfected partner through oral sex. Many infections can be passed through oral sex of the penis, vagina or anus.

Some of the sexually transmitted infections that can be passed through oral sex include:

  • HIV

Proper Protection Can Prevent Infection

Be sure to check for any kind of bumps, lesions or strange discharge before performing oral sex. However, because many STDs have no symptoms, you might not realize you or your partner have a sexually transmitted infection. So, it’s important to correctly use a condom, dental dam, or another barrier method of protection every time you have oral sex. Ensure there are no tears in the condom or dental dam before using it, and make sure the product hasn’t expired, which can increase the risk of it breaking.

  • Condom: For mouth-to-penis oral sex, use a latex or polyurethane condom to cover the penis. Only use water- or silicone-based lubricants, rather than oil-based ones, for latex condoms to prevent breakage. Don’t reuse condoms when you have oral sex again.
  • Dental dam: A dental dam is a sheet of latex or polyurethane used to cover the vagina or anus before performing oral sex. Use a new dental dam every time you have oral sex.
  • Other barriers: If a dental dam isn’t available, you can make an effective substitute using a latex or polyurethane condom. To make it, cut off both the opening and the tip of the condom, and then cut it from top to bottom to create a square shape. Use the square to cover the vagina or anus before performing oral sex.

Safety for You and Your Partner

Even with oral sex, HIV risks are higher if you or your partner have another sexually transmitted disease. It’s especially important to get prompt treatment for any STD so you don’t become infected—or infect someone else—with HIV during oral sex.

The only way to ensure you won’t get an STD is to abstain from all forms of sex, including oral sex, or be in an infection-free mutually monogamous relationship. But using barrier methods correctly reduces your risk of oral sex STD infection.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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