Embarking on my street interviews dubbed “We Dey Street With Dr Awua” on YouTube, I had the opportunity to interview the Ghanaian youth and the elderly on the implications of oral sex on oral health. Some were of the view that this practice could cause oral infections and could potentially cause bad mouth odour. Others were of the view that this practice was safe and they would not deter themselves from performing it. With sexually transmitted infections on the rise, I believe it is important that I touch on this delicate matter and shed more light on it to enable people make healthy decisions.
Oral sex, also termed fellatio, cunnilingus and anilingus, is the stimulation of the genitals using the mouth and tongue. Even though oral sex does not cause tooth decay, it is of no surprise that oral sex is one of the means through which sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are most frequently passed on from person to person. Certain disease-causing pathogens are found in faeces and on the genitals and they can be passed on through oral sex. The following are some of the infections that can be transmitted:
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that causes warts in various parts of the body depending on the type of strain. One can get HPV by having oral, vaginal, anal or sex with someone who has the virus. It can be passed on even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can also develop symptoms years after a sexual encounter with someone who has it, making it hard to know when you first became infected. Bear in mind that, HPV is also a predisposing factor for oral cancer, cervical cancer and throat cancer.
Oral herpes and genital herpes are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) respectively. They cause blisters and ulcers on the mouth, genitals and anus. The virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and the blisters heal within 2-3 weeks. Herpes is most infectious when you have blisters, but the virus can be passed on even when someone has no symptoms especially immediately before or after an outbreak.
Gonorrhoea is an STI that is passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Even though gonorrhoea can easily be treated and cured, it can cause health problems when left untreated. Many people with gonorrhoea do not have symptoms so it is important to get tested. Common symptoms include an unusual discharge from the genitals and a burning sensation when urinating.
Syphilis is most commonly passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom or dental dam, with someone who has syphilis. For those wondering what a dental dam is, it is a latex or polyurethane (thin, soft plastic) square that acts as a barrier to help prevent STIs passing from one person to another. Syphilis causes infectious sores or rashes and contact with these sores and rashes is the main way that syphilis is spread. The early symptom is a painless sore, referred to as a chancre, around their genitals or anus. Later symptoms include a blotchy red rash appearing anywhere on the body, especially hands or soles of the feet and also white patches in the mouth. A person can pass on syphilis if they do not have any symptoms.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes AIDS and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections. The virus is generally transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids. On the other hand, the risk of HIV transmission from oral sex is quite low unless the individual receiving oral sex has sores on their genital area or the person giving oral sex has sores in their mouth or perhaps, bleeding gums. Furthermore, if the person living with HIV is on medications and has undetectable levels of HIV, then there is a negligible risk of passing the virus on.
Other infections worth mentioning include chlamydia, trichomoniasis, hepatitis A and E and many more parasitic and bacterial diseases.
In conclusion, whether it is your first time or you already practice this, it is best to protect yourself. To protect yourself, use a dental dam or a condom. In addition, avoid oral sex if you happen to have sores, bleeding, cuts or infections in your mouth, throat, genitals or anus. In spite of that, it is also very common that STIs can be spread to a sex partner even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. Consequently, if you are infected with an STI, you might not know it because some STIs have no symptoms.
Thanks for reading.
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