You may have wondered if you can get a yeast infection from giving or receiving oral sex. The answer is rather complex and may surprise you! First we’ll need to cover some background into yeast infections.
What is a yeast infection?
Yeast infections are most commonly caused by a fungi called Candida albicans, which gives yeast infections their scientific name Candidiasis. Under healthy circumstances, yeast live and grow symbiotically on our bodies, part of a community of bacteria, viruses, and other fungi, also known as the microbiome.
There are numerous microbiomes across the human body, including the intestines (gut microbiome), mouth (oral microbiome), skin (skin microbiome), vagina (vaginal microbiome), and many others. Each of these environments is unique, allowing only specific types of microbes to grow.
However, these microbes can become imbalanced, which leads to infections such as gum disease, bacterial vaginosis, leaky gut, and yeast infections. This imbalanced is called dysbiosis. Normally, Candida are at very low levels in the mouth, gut, skin, and vagina, but dysbiosis can cause Candida to rapidly grow and cause an infection.
Symptoms of yeast infections
Yeast infections go by many names depending on the location. In the mouth, it’s called oral thrush. On the skin it’s called cutaneous candidiasis. Candidiasis in the vagina is simply referred to as a vaginal yeast infection. They each can present with different symptoms, but have some commonalities:
- distinct smell of yeast or cheese
- thick mucus discharge or coating
Can you get a yeast infection from giving oral sex?
Yes. The abundance of Candida is directly correlated with infection. If you give oral sex to someone who has a yeast infection, you can introduce a high amount of Candida into your mouth. This high abundance can disturb the oral microbiome, and lead to oral thrush, a yeast infection.
Can you get a yeast infection from receiving oral sex?
Yes. Studies have shown that not only can high abundance of Candida cause microbiome dysbiosis of other microbiomes, such as the vagina or skin of the penis. If someone has oral thrush, they can transfer this high abundance of Candida, triggering a yeast infection.
So can oral sex cause a yeast infection?
Yes. Oral sex can trigger a yeast infection both from giving and receiving. Not only can a high abundance of Candida be transmitted from one person to another, but the bacteria in your mouth can alter the microbial environment of the vagina or skin around the genitals, which can lead to conditions like yeast infections.
Research has shown that treating and killing Candida from one partner reduces the chances of a yeast infection in their partner. However, even if you don’t have Candida or a current yeast infection, studies have shown that oral sex predisposes the recipient to yeast infections through a still unknown mechanism. The current thought is that saliva can disturb the resident microbiome of the vagina, leading to dysbiosis. This is consistent with the fact that frequency of oral intercourse is correlated with an increase in yeast infections, even in generally healthy individuals.
How can I tell if I have Candida?
Because you can transfer a high abundance of Candida to other people, it might be important to find out if you carry Candida! Fortunately, there’s a saliva test to help you find out. You can screen your oral microbiome for Candida using the Bristle comprehensive oral microbiome test. Your partner will thank you!