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What is a dental dam?
Dental dams are a great way to decrease the risk of contracting a viral or bacterial infection from oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex! Dental dams are square pieces of material that are used to prevent the transfer of bodily fluids during oral or anal sex by creating a barrier between the mouth and vulva or anus. Usually they are made of latex, but latex-free dental dams are also available for people who are allergic to latex. Dental dams are for one time use only and are placed either on the vulva (the external part of the female genitalia) or the anus. The dental dam is NOT designed to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent STI transmission and bacterial infection. While the feeling of the latex is different from the feeling of the tongue, the sensation is not necessarily reduced. The use of flavored dental dams or lubricants can help giving or receiving oral sex feel more pleasurable. Dental dams come in flavors such as grape, wildberry, vanilla, and strawberry. Dental dams may be purchased at drugstores, online, or from health service departments, such as Planned Parenthood. The average cost of a dental dam is $1.25.
When do I use a dental dam?
One might consider using dental dams anytime when engaging in cunnilingus (oral-vaginal sex) or analingus (oral-anal sex). For oral contact with a penis, it is safest to use a condom in order to prevent the barrier from slipping. Dental dams are especially important during oral-anal sex because they prevent the spread of infection from oral contact with the anus. They also prevent the spread of many STIs such as herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts, and HIV, which all can be contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids and may infect the throat, cheeks, face, or other body parts.
How do I use a dental dam?
- Check to make sure there are no holes or tears in the material. It may be necessary to rinse-off the dental dam before use, especially if it has a powdery cornstarch substance on it because the powder may create vaginal irritation.
- If the dental dam does not come pre-lubricated, apply a small amount of water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly, to the side that will touch the vagina or anus. This will prevent the material from painfully sticking to the sensitive body part. Then, spread the dental dam over the entire vulva (female exterior genitals) or anus.
- Holding the dental dam with your hands, only stimulate the area covered by the dental dam with your tongue and do not touch your tongue to other parts of your partner's skin or body.
Tip: Use flavored dental dams or lubricants specifically designed for oral sex to increase pleasure.
Remember: One dental dam is for one time use only and should be used on one body part only. The dental dam should not be moved from one body part to another, and users should never turn one side of the dental dam over to use the other side. Both practices may cause the spread and transfer of bodily fluids, thus defeating its purpose.
A dental dam can also be made using a male condom. Here are steps on how to make a dental dam out of a male condom:
1. Find a male condom. Check the expiration date and for possible damages to make sure the condom is still effective.
2. Cut the tip and the bottom band of the condom off.
3. Cut down one side of the condom and unfold the material. You should now have a rectangle of material that may be used as a dental dam.
Tip: Use condoms that are not lubricated. Lubricated condoms may taste bad, and condoms lubricated with spermicide may cause the tongue to go numb. If the taste of latex is not preferable, try polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms. Flavored condoms and special lubricants designed for oral sex may also improve the experience.
Precautions when using a dental dam:
There are a couple of safety precautions to know when using a dental dam. The side of the dental dam that touched the vulva or anus will contain the secretions you are trying to avoid, so make sure not to turn the dental dam over during use. Never share a dental dam or use it on more than one person, since this might transfer the fluids from one person to another. Remember, dental dams are for one-time use only. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to make on your own, so using a new one each time should not be an issue.
Boskey, E. (October 24, 2011). How to make your own dental dam from a condom.
About.com Health’s Disease and Condition. Accessed from
Planned Parenthood. (2012). Glossary. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.
Accessed from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/glossary-
The Naked Truth. (August 12, 2011). Dental dams. Idaho Department of Health &
Welfare. Accessed from http://www.nakedtruth.idaho.gov/dental-dams.aspx
Last Updated: February 14, 2012