Health Question

What is oral sex?

Oral sex is when you stimulate your partner's genitals with your mouth, lips or tongue. This could involve sucking or licking their penis (also called fellatio), vagina, vulva or clitoris (cunnilingus), or anus (anilingus).

Is it common to have oral sex?

Many people have oral sex before or instead of sexual intercourse.

If you're going to have oral sex with your partner, try different techniques until you find out what you both enjoy.

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Is oral sex safe?

There's no risk of getting pregnant through oral sex. But you can catch or pass on some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by having oral sex.

The most common STIs that can be passed on through oral sex include:

Other STIs that are passed on less commonly through oral sex include:

The risk is generally higher if you give rather than receive oral sex. This is because you're more likely to be exposed to genital fluids.

The risk is also higher if you have cuts, sores or ulcers in your mouth. Avoid brushing your teeth or using dental floss shortly before giving oral sex as this could cause your gums to bleed. If you want to freshen your mouth first, you could try mouthwash or mints.

If you think you may have an STI, see a GP or go to your nearest sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.

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How can I make oral sex safer?

For oral sex on a man, use a condom to reduce your risk of getting an STI. Try a flavoured one if you do not like the taste of regular condoms.

For oral sex on a woman, or when performing anilingus, use a dam. This is a small, thin square of latex or plastic that acts as a barrier between the vagina or anus and the mouth, preventing the spread of STIs.

Dams are available at some sexual health clinics and online, or pharmacies may order them for you.

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Further information