Have you ever wondered about the link between oral sex and HPV? As with other types of intimate contact, oral sex does put you at risk of contracting this sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s important to understand how the infection spreads and what health issues it could potentially cause.
Oral Sex HPV Transmission
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact and can potentially affect the genitals, mouth, and throat. The infection can spread during oral sex. In rare cases, it could spread during deep, open-mouthed kissing. Although HPV is more commonly transmitted during vaginal or anal sex, it’s important to be aware that there’s still a risk for spreading the virus through intimate oral activity.
HPV is not linked to behaviors like light, closed-mouth kissing or sharing food, drinks, and utensils. It is also not passed through droplets expelled when someone breathes, coughs, or sneezes.
What Does Oral HPV Look Like?
Regardless of whether the infection is located in your genitals or your mouth and throat, HPV usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. In fact, you may not realize you have contracted HPV from oral sex. Even when you don’t have symptoms, however, it’s still possible to spread the infection.
The most noticeable oral HPV symptoms are warts on the mouth or throat. Oral HPV warts only develop with certain strains of the virus.
Some high-risk HPV types may lead to the development of cancer in the back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer). Be sure to see a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms associated with oropharyngeal cancer:
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Persistent sore throat
- Lumps in the mouth, back of the throat, or neck
- Unexplained weight loss
Getting Rid of Oral HPV
Most of the time, the immune system suppresses HPV infections on its own. According to the CDC, over 90% of HPV infections become undetectable within two years. Most of the time, these infections become dormant within six months.
There is no oral HPV treatment or cure currently available. However, studies are being conducted with supplements like AHCC which may boost the immune system to help with long-term suppression of the infection. In addition, there are treatments available for warts or cancers that may result from oral HPV.
Want to protect yourself against oral HPV infections? Get the HPV vaccine. In a 2017 study, the incidence of oral infections with high-risk HPV types were 88% lower in those who had received the vaccine.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- Oropharyngeal Cancer: Cleveland Clinic, 2013.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- Phase II Evaluation of AHCC for the Eradication of HPV Infections: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018.
- HPV Vaccination Linked to Decreased Oral HPV Infections: National Cancer Institute, 2017.