As tools to reduce risk for STI transmission, dental dams are not to be ignored.
Many consider oral sex to be a safer form of sexual activity compared to vaginal or anal intercourse. For this reason, they might put less emphasis on the use of latex barriers, such as dental dams and condoms, during oral sex. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided and can lead to the transmission of preventable infections.
It is generally true that oral sex presents less of a risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – but this risk is not trivial, especially when people are under the impression that they don’t need to use barrier methods during oral sex. Most sexually transmitted infections can be passed along by oral sex, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes (which can be transmitted back and forth from the mouth, as cold sores, to the genital region, as genital herpes), human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. Even pubic lice can be transferred from the genital region to eyelashes and eyebrows! Additionally, intestinal parasites are more likely to be transmitted via oral sex than through vaginal sex. A microscopic amount of fecal matter containing parasites can be infectious, and can be unknowingly ingested when present on genitals.
Seventy percent of adolescents who reported engaging in oral sex had never used a barrier to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.
Some bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, can do permanent damage if not treated in time. Furthermore, gonorrhea of the throat is much more difficult to treat than gonorrhea in the genital or rectal areas. And some viral STIs can’t be cured (such as herpes and HIV), while others can cause chronic infections that have been linked to cancer (such as hepatitis, which is associated with liver cancer, and HPV, which is associated with throat cancer as well as cervical cancer and anal cancer). Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged abstinence, abstinence only, AIDS, barrier methods, barriers, cancer, chlamydia, condom, condoms, dental dam, dental dams, gonnorhea, hepatitis, herpes, HIV, HIV/AIDS, HPV, human papillomavirus, intestinal parasites, latex, latex barriers, liver cancer, oral sex, parasites, pubic lice, safe sex, safer sex, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, syphilis, teenagers, throat cancer, vaginal intercourse, virginity, virginity pledge, virginity pledges
Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, is seen in this electron micrograph adhering to a surface with the end of its structure. Image: Public Health Image Library, CDC
When syphilis first descended upon Europe, it was seen as a new plague, and anxiety and blame coalesced around this mysterious scourge. Was it a punishment from God? Was it introduced by a hated Other? Was it caused by the stars’ alignment or the presence of “bad air”? The panic it provoked foreshadowed the hysteria that surrounded the emergence of HIV in the 1980s, as syphilitics were discriminated against, feared, or thought to have received punishment for their “unbridled lust.”
We now know that syphilis is not caused by supernatural forces, foreigners, or “bad air,” but rather by a species of spiral-shaped bacteria called Treponema pallidum, which can cause infections in the vagina, anus, urethra, or penis, as well as the lips and mouth. It is mostly spread by sexual contact – vaginal or anal intercourse, as well as oral sex – in which one person comes into contact with a syphilis sore. These sores can be hidden on the cervix or in the vagina, urethra, rectum, or mouth, making it not immediately apparent that one is infected with syphilis. Syphilis can also spread to a fetus during pregnancy. Sexually active people can reduce their risk of contracting syphilis by using latex barrier methods such as condoms or dental dams. Continue reading
Posted in Sexual Health
Tagged antibiotic, antibiotics, antigenic variation, arsenic, bacteria, chancre, Great Pox, gummatous syphilis, latent syphilis, lesion, lesions, malaria, malaria therapy, mercury, Neosalvarsan, Paul Ehrlich, penicillin, primary syphilis, Salvarsan, secondary syphilis, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted infections, spirochete, STD, STDs, STI, STIs, syphilis, T. pallidum, tertiary syphilis, Treponema pallidum, ulcer