Dear Mistress Maeve,
I have just returned from my first STI and HIV/AIDS testing. During the very simple process, some informational handouts were provided to me. After reviewing one particular handout, I asked the doctor about the risks of giving oral sex to a woman — both for the receiver and the giver. She confirmed that giving women oral sex has an extremely low, if not negligible, risk. Assuming the doctor was correct, and the handouts were accurate in their omission of cunnilingus from the list of “risky behaviors,” what is the point of dental dams? And why would someone choose to use one?
Congratulations on getting tested. Being screened for STIs can be intimidating, but it's one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and your partners.
You're not alone in your curiosity about dental dams and practicing safer oral sex. This 6-inch square of thin latex seems like a mystery to most people outside the dental field, and I'll offer a couple reasons why: First, in a sea of safer-sex advertising for and literature on the condom, we barely ever hear about the dental dam. Second, in my experience, health practitioners vary in their opinions about the necessity of dental dams because cunnilingus carries a low risk of transmitting an STI.
But here's the simple fact: You can contract an STI from going down on a woman. For most STIs to be transmitted from genitals to mouth, both parties have to have open sores or cuts — unlikely, but not impossible. While the risk may be low, it's better to be safe than sorry — right?
While I am a know-it-all, I'm not a doctor. Check in with another doctor and get a second opinion. Until then, if you're not in a monogamous relationship where both parties have been tested — use a dental dam.