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National Dam Day


November 22 is National Dental Dam Day!  Dams, otherwise known as Oral Barriers, are gaining awareness for their important role in helping prevent STIs during oral sex.


What exactly is an oral barrier?   An oral barrier or dam is a sheet of latex or polyisoprene (non-latex) that is used as a barrier when performing oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex.  They are used to help reduce the transmission of infections that can occur during any oral sex activities.


Dental Dams vs Dams?


Dental Dams were originally used to isolate a tooth from the rest of the mouth during dental procedures.  They were, and still are for that purpose, a simple 5- or 6-inch square sheet.  Folks began to use them as a barrier during oral sex as they were a better option than cling wrap or cut up condoms (neither of which meet the regulatory requirements)!  But these were not exactly conducive to the sensual aspect of oral sex due to their thickness nor met regulatory standards as an oral barrier due to their smaller size.  Enter today’s oral barrier! 


Why Give a Dam?


The late 1980s saw an increased openness in speaking about sexual wellness, safer sex practices, and sexuality in general. And more people started asking about dams.  The sheer number of STIs and the continually growing rates around the world today necessitate a variety of safer sex products.  Oral Barriers are definitely an important part of safer sex practices. 


It is also extremely important that you use a dam that meets the ISO 29942 Standards for Dams.  Yes, there is a comprehensive regulatory ISO Standard regarding dams that includes proper sizing, viral barrier testing, biocompatibility testing, tear and tensile testing and a number of other requirements.  Nobody wants to, or should have to, worry that any product being used for safer sex practices is not going to do what it should.  And in order for that to be the case it is imperative to make sure the products you use, specifically condoms and dams, are fully licensed by your country’s governing body. 


Dams that are for oral sex have a set of requirements that must be met for proper licensing as they are considered a medical device.  According to the regulatory standard all dams need to be 6 x 10 inches in size to ensure maximum coverage.  They need to have some flexibility in their tensile strength without tearing. They need to be the correct thickness to ensure they act as a viral barrier to help prevent the transmission of an STI.  They need to be made with products that are approved and meet biocompatibility standards.  They also need to be registered with either the FDA or Canada in North America. These requirements have specific parameters that MUST be met to be FDA approved or Health Canada Licensed.


Safer Sex Practices


Oral sex still has the risk of spreading infections.  The use of an oral barrier helps to reduce the risk when used consistently and properly.  There are many different factors that determine the risk of transmitting an STI.  According to the CDC, “Many STDs, as well as other infections, can be spread through oral sex. Anyone exposed to an infected partner can get an STD in the mouth, throat, genitals, or rectum. The risk of getting an STD from oral sex, or spreading an STD to others through oral sex, depends on several things, including:


  • The particular STD.
  • The sex acts practiced.
  • How common the STD is in the population to which the sex partners belong.
  • The number of specific sex acts performed.

Dams and condoms are considered medical devices in North America. This is to ensure that if they claim to help prevent STIs they have the testing and regulatory background to support that. ALWAYS make sure the products you are using are licensed or approved so that you can spread a dam, not an infection! 

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