Can You Get HPV From Kissing?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is known to be spread through oral sex, so it may seem reasonable to assume that kissing—particularly deep kissing or "French kissing"—is a risk factor for infection. While theoretically possible, there have yet to be any studies that have definitively made this connection.

This article walks you through what the current research says about HPV and kissing. It also describes the most common modes of HPV transmission and the best ways to protect yourself from infection.

Portrait of a couple with man kissing cheek
Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty Images

Research on Kissing and HPV Transmission

At present, the only fair response to whether kissing can cause HPV is maybe.

Some studies have suggested that open-mouth kissing may be linked to HPV transmission, but the evidence supporting the claim is often contradictory or ambiguous.

A 2014 study involving 222 heterosexual couples found individuals with a partner with oral HPV faced a higher risk of having oral HPV themselves. The findings were limited by the fact that the participants engaged in both deep kissing and oral sex, so the actual route of transmission remains unclear.

This is a common theme with studies involving HPV and kissing: It is hard to isolate couples with HPV who only engage in deep kissing.

With that said, a 2022 study from the University of Michigan examined oral swabs from 392 sexually active adults and found that people with two or more deep kissing partners were twice as likely to have oral HPV than those who had one or none. Even so, the findings were limited by the fact that participants engaged in both kissing and sex, meaning the route of infection remains unclear.

This suggests kissing may play a role in the oral transmission of HPV. It doesn't prove a link.

Proven Methods of HPV Transmission

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80% of people who are sexually active will become infected with HPV at some point during their lives.

While kissing may or may not pose a significant risk of HPV, vaginal, anal, or oral sex are extremely effective routes of transmission.

The virus can even be passed through close skin-to-skin contact during sex, often from a partner with HPV who is asymptomatic (without symptoms).

Does HPV Always Cause Cancer?

Although some types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer and other types of cancer, the majority of infections clear on their own and pose no threat of cancer or any other health concern.

In fact, fewer than 1% of all HPV infections annually lead to HPV-associated cancer.

Protecting Yourself From HPV

While condoms afford some protection against HPV, the most effective means of prevention is to get the HPV vaccine, called Gardasil 9.

The CDC currently recommends HPV vaccination for:

  • Children 11 to 12 years
  • Anyone under 26 who was not adequately vaccinated during childhood

The CDC does not recommend HPV vaccination for adults over 26, mainly because the odds of exposure to the virus by this age are high. With that said, adults 27 to 45 may opt for vaccination based on the potential benefits of vaccination in their case as outlined by a healthcare provider.

Safer Sex and Testing

A reduction in your number of sex partners can also reduce your odds of exposure.

Because most people with HPV are asymptomatic, it is a good idea to discuss safer sex practices with sexual partners and be open about any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) either of you have or have had—including potentially chronic (long-lasting) ones like HPV.

If you have signs or symptoms of HPV, ask your healthcare provider for an HPV test and other recommended STI screenings (STIs often occur together). By getting diagnosed, you can better protect your health and the health of your sexual partners.

HPV Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dahlstrom KR, Burchell AN, Ramanakumar AV, et al. Sexual transmission of oral human papillomavirus infection among men. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Dec 2014;23(12):2959-64. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0386

  2. Brouwer A, Campredon LP, Walline HM, et al. Incidence and clearance of oral and cervicogenital HPV infection: longitudinal analysis of the MHOC cohort study. BMJ Open. 2022 Jan 3;12(1):e056502. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056502

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus: HPV vaccine schedule and dosing.

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.