Q: Can oral sex transmit STIs? Should I use condoms for oral sex?

A: When the mouth and tongue are healthy and without cuts or sores, the chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) through oral sex is uncommon, though possible. Trauma in the mouth presents a ready passage-way for viruses or bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Unless you’re 100 percent sure that your partner’s sexual history is clear, it’s a good idea to use protection (condoms/dental dams) if any cuts, tears, sores or scrapes are present in the mouth (even tiny ones). Additionally, after you’ve had a root canal, or your wisdom teeth pulled, etc, it’s wise to stay away from unprotected oral sex.

STIs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV, can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, including pre-ejaculatory fluid or ejaculate. Herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) can also be passed on through oral sex. Although these cases are rare, transmission is possible!

 

Q: When can condoms break? How can I prevent it?

A: Approximately two to five percent of condoms tear during use. The majority of these failures are caused by human error, which can include not using enough lube and creating tiny tears with rings or long, sharp fingernails, among others. There are some key steps to using a condom correctly and avoiding any mishaps, such as breaking or slipping.

Before:

1. Check the expiration date on the condom; be sure it has been stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. (I know, a challenge in South Texas!)

2. Check the air bubble; press on the package — does the air stay in the package?

3. Tear the condom package carefully — DO NOT use your teeth, scissors, or other sharp objects…

4. If the condom looks damaged, discolored, or brittle, toss it and get a new one.

Consider adding a drop of lube inside the condom.

During:

With one hand, pinch the tip of the condom to leave room for the ejaculate.

With the other hand, place the condom on the erect penis or object and roll it down to the base.

Continue to press any air bubbles out of the condom.

Add lube to the outside of the condom to avoid excess friction.

After:

1. Hold the base of the condom as you or your partner pulls out to avoid slippage.

2. Remove the condom and throw away in the trash, not the toilet.

 

Special thanks to goaskalice.columbia.edu for assistance in answering these questions.

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