backup og meta
Health Screening
Ask Doctor

Types of Oral STDS and How to Recognize Them

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated 3 weeks ago

Types of Oral STDS and How to Recognize Them

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contracted not just through vaginal and anal sex, but oral sex as well. STDs that can be spread through oral sex include human papilloma virus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV-2),  and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Oral sex involves using one’s mouth, lips, and tongue to stimulate a partner’s genitals. To prevent transmission and reduce risk of infection, sexual partners use a genital or dental condom (sometimes called dental dams). In the case of HPV, vaccination may also help reduce risk of infection.

Types of Oral STDs to Watch Out For

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

There are over a hundred strains of HPV, many of which can affect the throat and mouth. The CDC approximates about 79 million currently have HPV, with at least 14 million at risk of becoming infected each year.

Those with oral HPV do not always show symptoms. When these occur, they may include: 

  • Warts in the throat 
  • Vocal changes
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Shortness of breath 

Several other HPV strains that infect the mouth and throat may even cause head or neck cancer.

HPV may be prevented by practicing safe sex. It is also important for women to talk to their doctor about HPV vaccination, which helps protect the body against oral HPV, as well as other strains of HPV that may lead to cervical, penile, and anal cancer. Women may also be advised to go for HPV screening and Pap smears for early cancer detection.


Chlamydia is brought about by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received more than 1.5 million reports of chlamydia. 

Chlamydia can be spread via oral sex, affecting both men and women. But is is more likely to be passed on through anal or vaginal sex. Chlamydia targets the throat, genitals, urinary tract and rectum.

People infected with chlamydia of the throat are asymptomatic. When symptoms do appear, they may present with a sore throat. With the correct antibiotics, it can be cured.


Gonorrhea is also called “the clap”, from the French “clapier bubo”, meaning inflammation of the genital area coming from the brothel. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. An estimated 820,000 new infections are reported each year by the CDC, with 570,000 cases afflicting individuals aged 15 to 24. 

Gonorrhea manifests in the throat, genitals, urinary tract, and rectum. It may be transmitted via genital sex as well.

Gonorrhea does not often show any symptoms, but symptoms may surface a week after exposure. The most common oral manifestation of this disease is a sore throat.

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. However, there has been reported increases of drug-resistant gonorrhea. Re-testing is recommended should symptoms in an affected person persist even after the full course of treatment is finished.


Another form of oral STD is syphilis. This is caused by bacterium Treponema pallidum. It affects the mouth, lips, throat, genitals, anus and rectum.

Unlike other oral infections, syphilis is serious, and not as common as other STDs. The CDC reported over 74,000 new syphilis diagnoses in 2015. 

The symptoms of oral syphilis occur in three stages: 

  • First stage: Sores inside or around the mouth and the throat
  • Second stage: Fever, swollen lymph nodes, rash on skin
  • Third stage: Damage to brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints

The latent stage of the infection shows no signs or symptoms and can last for several years.

Left untreated, T. pallidum will remain in the body and can cause serious health issues: organ damage and significant neurological outcomes. An infected pregnant woman can spread the bacterium to her fetus, which can result in serious complications for the baby, or even a stillbirth.

Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, while in other cases, symptoms may disappear with or without treatment.

Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)

Herpes simplex virus 2 is part of a family of highly contagious viruses that afflict humans. HSV-2 is passed on primarily during sex and may result in genital or anal herpes. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that an estimated 417 million people younger than 50 around the world are infected.

HSV-2 can also be transmitted through oral sex. Although the incidence is rare, it may also cause herpes esophagitis, which targets immunocompromised people. 

Its symptoms include: 

  • Open sores in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Joint pain 
  • Chills 
  • Fever
  • Malaise (a general feeling of being unwell)

Unfortunately, HSV-2 is a lifelong infection and can be spread even if one is asymptomatic. The treatment can only reduce or prevent herpes outbreaks.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

According to the CDC, this type of virus has affected around 1.1 million in the US, with declining rates. But in the Philippines, the rate of increase in HIV infections is steadily increasing.

HIV is transmitted mostly through genital and anal sex. The likelihood of contracting it through oral sex is very low.

Initially, people with HIV may exhibit flu-like symptoms. However, it is a lifelong disease and many of those infected see no symptoms for years.

Although there is no known cure for it, people with HIV can live longer and healthier with the help of antiviral medication and treatment.

How can one get tested?

Procedures that test for oral STDs vary for each type. Should you have symptoms which you suspect to be an STD, you and your partner may be tested by getting a swab of the genital area or urine for chlamydia and gonorrhea.

HIV and HSV-2 (symptomatic or asymptomatic) can be tested via a swab of the affected area and a blood test, as a follow-up.

Syphilis can be diagnosed with a sample from a sore or a blood test.

HPV manifesting as warty growth can be clinically diagnosed by visualization. The doctor may also suggest a Pap test.

The CDC has several recommendations regarding who should be tested for what type of STD. Case in point, everyone from age 13 to 64 should be tested for HIV at least once; all pregnant women should be tested for syphilis; and all sexually active women younger than 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Talk to your doctor to determine what tests you should undergo.

Key Takeaways

Though STDs are typically spread via sexual intercourse, it is stilly possible to become infected through oral sex. Despite this, oral STDs can be prevented by wearing a condom or dental dam. In addition to practicing safe sex, speak to your doctor about STD prevention, as well as regular screening for these conditions.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated 3 weeks ago

ad iconadvertisement

Was this article helpful?

ad iconadvertisement
ad iconadvertisement