STDs of the Mouth: Types, Transmission, Treatment & Related Conditions

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The number of Americans infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has reached an "unprecedented high," according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Certain STDs of the mouth are more contagious than others, and it's vital to know which diseases to watch out for, how they are transmitted, and if they can be treated.

Oral Herpes

Herpes is the most common oral STD in the United States and is present in more than half the adult population. Many contract the disease as children by getting a kiss from a family member or friend infected with HSV-1, according to the American Sexual Health Association. It is transmitted by direct contact between broken skin at the site of the infection, and the recipient's healthy tissue. Genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2 and can be caused by HSV-1. Genital herpes affects the vaginal, penal and rectal areas of the body. Oral herpes can be transmitted to genital tissue, even when the carrier has no symptoms.

Herpes causes oral blisters varying in color and appearance, which are painful when they burst. They usually heal in seven to 10 days, but can break out again at any time. Some patients also develop fever or fatigue.

Gonorrhea

Affecting the tissue of the mouth and throat, oral gonorrhea is transmitted by contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, defines the CDC. It's not necessary for ejaculation to take place for it to be passed on, either; skin contact alone is enough to transfer the bacteria.

Oral symptoms of gonorrhea include a burning sensation and pain in the patient's mouth and throat, accompanied by swollen glands and white spots on the tissue. A throat swab enables the doctor to test for this disease. If diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Syphilis

This bacterial infection is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected site that has one or more lesions present, says the CDC. The sores usually exist around the genital areas, anus, rectum, lips or mouth, and are acquired when a healthy person is exposed to direct contact with the virus in a person carrying it.

Patients frequently develop firm, painless, non-itchy skin sores on the mouth tissue or genital area. Syphilis sufferers in later stages could experience soft, non-cancerous growths or a rash in the mouth, similar to those on palms, soles and the vagina.

Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)

Medical researchers have discovered EBV and other STDs of the mouth are all transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. Contagion through saliva is the most common method, which makes kissing a high-risk activity for anyone wanting to avoid infection, warns the CDC.

Oral symptoms of EBV are mononucleosis or development of oral hairy leukoplakia, which appears similar to oral thrush (candidiasis). It produces white patches on the mouth membranes that are hard to the touch and can't easily be wiped away.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

CMV is another disease infecting half of adults older than 40. While sexual transmission is possible, the CDC notes CMV is also frequently passed on through contact with bodily fluids including urine, saliva, tears and breast milk. It can also be transmitted from babies to adult caregivers.

People with compromised immune systems are at highest risk for CMV, which causes ulcers in the mucous membranes of the mouth tissue. Healthcare professionals recommend regular hand washing, especially after changing children's diapers, to decrease exposure to CMV. Most healthy patients don't need treatment for CMV, and those with weakened immune systems are treated symptomatically.

Hepatitis

Three forms of this disease exist: hepatitis A, B and C. Vaccinations can protect patients against A and B, but aren't available for C. Hepatitis A and C can be transmitted through oral sex, although risk factors are low.

Adults with hepatitis could be candidates for oral cancer, which causes painless sores and lesions in the mouth, a red, swollen and painful throat, and difficulty swallowing.

Oral Care

STDs of the mouth require examination by a professional who will refer you to the right physician for treatment. Swish with Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore Rinse. It is recommended by dental professionals to cleanse and soothe canker sores, denture and mouth irritations. In all cases, maintaining great oral hygiene habits may help keep your mouth healthy.