Common Oral STDs
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. Herpes causes oral blisters and cold sores, which usually heal in 7–10 days, but can break out again at any time. Oral herpes can be transmitted to genital tissue, even when no symptoms are present.
While gonorrhea is generally transmitted through sex, a 2019 study indicates that kissing an infected person may be a risk, as well. It's most common among people ages 15–24. Oral symptoms of gonorrhea include a burning sensation and pain in the mouth and throat, as well as swollen tonsils and white spots on the tissue. Many people experience no symptoms at all, so testing is very important.
Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilitic sore, according to the CDC. Oral symptoms of syphilis include sores on your lips, tongue, gums or elsewhere in the mouth and throat. They could start as small red patches and develop into larger, open sores if left untreated.
Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)
EBV is contracted or transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva, making kissing a high-risk activity with anyone infected, warns the CDC. Oral symptoms of EBV are mononucleosis or development of oral hairy leukoplakia, which can produce white patches in the mouth that are hard to the touch and can't easily be wiped away.
CMV is a common herpes virus that affects half of adults over 40 years old. While sexual transmission is possible, the CDC notes that CMV is also passed on through contact with other bodily fluids or from babies to adult caregivers. People with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for CMV.
Hepatitis A and C can be transmitted through oral sex, although the risk is lower than with some other STDs. You can get vaccinated against types A and B, but not C. Adults with hepatitis could be candidates for oral cancer, so watch for symptoms and work closely with your doctor.