Sexual health and the mouth


Benjamin Tighe breaks down some frequent sexually transmitted illnesses, explains how they transmit and the remedies accessible.

What did your dental coaching train you about sexual well being? For many people the reply is nothing.

Syphilis and gonorrhoea are on the rise within the UK. A latest examine by Drake et al advised HPV could change into the primary explanation for oropharyngeal most cancers overtaking conventional causes like smoking and alcohol.

One among our roles as dental professionals is to teach the affected person on the dangers of their behaviour. We’ve carried out this for years about smoking and extra just lately about alcohol.

However why is intercourse so completely different?

What’s oral intercourse?

Oral intercourse refers back to the sexual act of genital stimulation by way of the mouth, tongue or throat (Saini et al, 2010).

Frequent amongst individuals of all sexual orientations, it may be practised as a part of foreplay earlier than, throughout or following sexual activity.

Kumar et al, (2015) suggests youngsters have engaged in oral intercourse earlier than sexual activity. They usually have extra unprotected oral intercourse than vaginal intercourse.

The varied forms of oral intercourse carried out are:

  • Analingus – oral-anal contact: stimulation of the anus with tongue or lips
  • Cunnilingus – oral-vaginal contact: stimulation of a vagina and/or vulva and/or clitoris with the lips and tongue
  • Fellatio – oral-penile contact: stimulation of a penis by the tongue, lips or throat.

One of many important issues we face is lack of schooling round oral intercourse.

Many adolescents don’t see oral intercourse in the identical gentle as penile/vaginal intercourse. Subsequently they typically understand the dangers related to be a lot decrease or non existent (Nguyen et al, 2016).

Research (Brondani et al, 2019; Guadiana et al, 2021) confirmed that dental professionals have been completely positioned to supply the proper preventative recommendation and will change into leaders in stopping HPV-related cancers and oral STIs.

Nevertheless, one important barrier that was recognized was the occupation’s lack of information round oral intercourse.

This text goals to interrupt down some frequent sexually transmitted illnesses.

HPV (transmitted via all modes of oral intercourse)


HPV is among the commonest sexually-transmitted infections within the UK.

There are over 150 subtypes of HPV. With greater than 40 being transmitted via sexual contact. They infect the anogenital area and oral cavity (Kim, 2016).

An estimated 80% of all sexually lively individuals are contaminated with some pressure of HPV (Satterwhite et al, 2013).

In 2012, the Worldwide Company of Analysis of Most cancers (IARC) declared that there was ample proof to affiliate a subtype of HPV 16 with oral cancers.

The human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) is related to the event of head and neck most cancers. Notably within the oropharynx (tonsils, base of the tongue, and throat) and ground of the mouth (Satterwhite et al, 2013).

Epidemiologically, HPV-associated head and neck cancers happen extra incessantly in sufferers beneath the age of fifty (Kim, 2016).

Heck et al (2009) said that HPV head and neck most cancers is related to:

  • A historical past of six or extra lifetime sexual companions
  • 4 or extra lifetime oral intercourse companions
  • A youthful sexual debut.


HPV has no signs so typically goes undiagnosed. However it will probably current as small warts within the mouth, throat, genitals or anus.

For those who spot these throughout your examination then refer the affected person to Oral Med for additional investigation.

HPV sexual health

Stopping HPV

Condom and barrier use for all sexual encounters together with oral intercourse is beneficial. However one of the simplest ways to forestall HPV is to get vaccinated.

The arrival of the HPV vaccine has additionally proven to lower the incidence of HPV infections in younger women and extra just lately younger boys.

The HPV vaccine is presently free for all underneath 25s. Males who’ve intercourse with males (MSM) are capable of entry the vaccine from their native sexual well being centre at no cost up till the age of 45 in England.

Herpes (transmitted via all modes of oral intercourse)


Genital herpes is brought on by one of many herpes simplex viruses (HSV).

There are two varieties, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Each varieties can infect the genital and anal space (genital herpes), the mouth and nostril (chilly sores).

It’s extremely contagious and tends to be extra contagious throughout an lively outbreak.

HSV-1 is principally transmitted through contact with the virus in sores, saliva or surfaces in or across the mouth.

Though much less frequent, HSV-1 is transmitted to the genital space via oral-genital contact to trigger genital herpes for those who obtain oral intercourse from somebody who has a chilly sore or is nearly to get one.

The virus enters the physique via small abrasions within the pores and skin. Or via the moist mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, rectum, urethra and underneath the foreskin.


The first symptom of herpes is the looks of blister-like sores on or across the genitals or anus. It typically coincides with common malaise and fever.

They might additionally have an effect on the mouth, tongue, and lips, relying on the kind of herpes.

Stopping herpes

For sexually lively individuals, constant and proper use of condoms is one of the simplest ways to forestall genital herpes and different STIs.

Folks with signs of oral herpes ought to keep away from oral contact with others (together with oral intercourse) and sharing objects that touched saliva.

Even condoms and different barrier safety strategies could not forestall the virus from spreading. Notably if somebody has a sore or a blister that’s not fully coated by a condom or dental dam.

Herpes is just not curable. However drugs can handle signs, decreasing the frequency and severity of the assaults.

For those who current to your physician inside 5 days they’ll prescribe an antiviral known as Aciclovir – 200mg for 5 days.

For those who expertise six or extra ‘assaults’ in a single yr or it’s severely affecting your high quality of life then you’ll be able to have long-term remedy, which is Acilcovir 400mg x twice every day for 12 months.

Treatment for facial chilly sores isn’t appropriate for genital herpes.

Syphilis (transmitted via all modes of oral intercourse)


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted an infection that’s brought on by the micro organism treponema pallidum.

Over time syphilis destroys blood vessels and nerves.

The micro organism stay within the sores which might be current within the genital areas in addition to across the mouth.

Syphilis is principally unfold via shut contact with an contaminated sore. It spreads normally throughout vaginal, anal or oral intercourse. Or by sharing intercourse toys with somebody who’s contaminated.

It’s on the rise throughout the UK, particularly amongst males.


This primary stage of an infection is early (main) syphilis.

Though uncommon, the preliminary indicators are painless. Laborious sores or ulcers that don’t bleed on or contained in the genitals, mouth, or throat throughout the first three months after an infection.

Early (secondary) signs might also embrace pink, flat patches throughout the physique. Particularly on the palms of the palms and soles of the toes.

Late (tertiary) syphilis then happens a few years and even a long time after preliminary an infection. It’s because it impacts the blood vessels and nerves. Tertiary syphilis may cause severe issues with bones, the mind and the big vessels close to the guts.

Blindness, numbness and mind injury can even happen.

Stopping syphilis

Thankfully, syphilis complication is uncommon throughout the UK on account of common testing. Nevertheless, it’s on the rise.

To scale back the danger of an infection, it’s inspired to repeatedly take a look at and use condoms or obstacles when participating in intercourse.

Shigella (transmitted via analingus or fellatio following unprotected anal intercourse)


Shigella an infection (shigellosis) is brought on by a micro organism (S sonnei and S flexneri) that lives in faeces.

Though usually brought on by meals contamination it may be handed via intercourse that entails contact with faeces (this may be fingers to mouth or analingus) and is extra frequent in males who’ve intercourse with males.


Signs normally start one to 2 days after you change into contaminated and may last as long as per week.

Not all instances show signs. However most individuals get diarrhoea and belly cramps. Some might also have a excessive temperature and vomiting.

Stopping shigella

To scale back the danger of catching shigella, you will need to cut back the danger of coming into contact with any faecal matter.

At all times put on a condom for anal intercourse; use a barrier (condom or dental dam) when performing analingus; make sure you’re washing your palms throughout or after intercourse, particularly for those who’re performing analingus or touching somebody’s anus and bathe after intercourse.

Gonorrhoea (transmitted via all modes of oral intercourse)


Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually-transmitted an infection brought on by neisseria gonorrhoeae.

It’s the second commonest bacterial sexually transmitted an infection (STI) within the UK.

It’s unfold simply via unprotected vaginal, anal or oral intercourse.

Oral gonorrhea additionally spreads via oral intercourse carried out on the genitals or anus of somebody who has gonorrhea.

Government statistics present that MSM in England accounted for over 80% of all pharyngeal infections.


Gonorrhea of the mouth is commonly asymptomatic. Nevertheless, it will probably current a number of signs, together with swelling of the lymph nodes within the neck, painful swallowing, a sore throat, nausea/vomiting and a fever.

Micro organism transmitted orally additionally has the next probability of infecting the eyes. This results in ache and elevated sensitivity to gentle.

Relying on the affected person’s degree of sexual exercise, the an infection may unfold to different areas of the physique and trigger different signs like a thick inexperienced or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis.

Stopping gonorrhoea

We will forestall gonorrhoea by utilizing condoms when having vaginal and anal intercourse.

Utilizing a condom to cowl the penis or a dental dam to cowl the vagina or anus if in case you have oral intercourse.


As a result of its significance, we’ve now included sexual well being inside our undergraduate dental hygiene and remedy curriculum at The Eastman.


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