What is a dental dam?
A dental dam, originally called an oral dam, is
a six inch square piece of thin latex, (sometimes flavored), thatís available
at most pharmacy chains and medical supply stores or via the internet
at condom stores. It was and still is, used by dentist all over the world
during dental treatment.
However, it also has another usage - acting as
a barrier between the vagina or anus and the mouth. Due to the possible
infectious secretions from both the vagina and anus, the dental dam is
becoming a more popular safer sex tool. With the introduction of different
colors, shapes and sizes, manufacturers are adding some exciting changes
to what once was sterile translucent-white latex.
How effective are dental dams?
Dental dams are an extremely effective means of preventing infection from
vaginal or anal secretions. There is little data available on rates of
infection after use of the dental dam. There are a few important concerns
which may reduce the effectiveness of the barrier. Before you use the
dam, lightly rinse it off with warm water. Dry with a towel. Then check
to be sure the dam is free of holes or breakage. You can check the dam
before you use it by holding it up to light or seeing if water is able
to pass through it. Finally, ensure that only one side of the dam comes
in contact with the genitals, and that the dam is used only once. Otherwise
you are defeating the whole purpose of using the dam in the first place.
Only use water based lubricants (we recommend Astroglide) when using dental
How do you use dental dams?
Dental dams are not the most difficult piece of protection to use. Some
people prefer that the person performing oral sex should hold the dam
so that the receiver can just sit back and relax. Others think that the
receiver should hold the dam so the other partner has his/her hands free
for other stimulation. As an alternative, some dental dams are now made
with an adhesive strip which will hold the dam in place. Remember to use
some water based lubricant on the vagina or anus beforehand to increase
the amount of stimulation received.
Although it may seem a little awkward to use them
at first, dental dams are extremely easy to use. Before using the dam
you may want to rinse off any powder that's on the dam and check the dam
to make sure there are no holes or perforations. The partner performing
oral sex will hold the dam against the vulva or anus of the receiving
partner. You can opt to apply a lubricant on the vulva or anus before
using the dam. The lubricant can help increase the sensation for the recipient.
Just make sure the lubricant is a water-based lube because oil-based lubes
and lotions can degrade the latex and decrease the dam's effectiveness.
When you use the dental dam, be sure to ONLY use
one side. Don't flip the dam over for another round because you will expose
yourself to the very fluids you're trying to avoid! And do not re-use
a dam on another body part (e.g. from anus to vulva or vice-versa) because
you can transfer germs from one body area to another. Do not re-use a
dam for another act of oral sex later on either. Dams are for one-time
Practical concerns with dental dams.
People often approach dental dams with the fear that the normally intense
stimulation of the tongue will be lessened by the sheet of latex. The
feeling of a dental dam is different than the feeling of a tongue but
it does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Use plenty of water based
lubricant and one partner can play with the latex in his/her mouth to
provide their partner with a new type of stimulation. The use of a dam
is up to you. Oral sex is considered to be less dangerous a practice than
intercourse, and fellatio is often less dangerous than oral-anal sex.
The level of protection you decide to use is your choice, but the safest
sex dictates you use a dental dam at all times.
How effective are they in preventing STI's?
Because dental dams act as a barrier to bodily fluids, they help reduce
STI transmission. Many STIs, such as herpes, genital warts and HIV, can
be transmitted through oral sex. Like condoms, dental dams must be used
correctly and consistently in order to be effective.
What if I don't have a dental dam available?
If you donít have a dental dam you can make one out a male or female condom,
latex glove, or non-microwavable saran wrap. To make a dental dam out
of a condom, simply cut off the tip and cut down one side. To make a dental
dam out of a latex glove, cut off the finger and cut down one side. If
using saran wrap, it is important that it be non-microwavable because
the pores in microwaveable saran wrap are large enough to allow viruses
and bacteria to pass through.