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What is a dental dam?

Everything you need to know about the dental dam for oral sex

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A dental dam provides protection during oral sex to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. It's essentially a piece of latex that's placed over the genitals or anus during oral stimulation. They function in a similar way to a condom as a barrier method but dental dams aren't as well known or nearly as readily available. 

 

How do I use a dental dam? 

Dental dams can be used on men or women, depending on the area you want to stimulate. It should be placed directly over either the vagina, vulva or anus and held in place for the duration of oral sex. Make sure you don't stretch it however as this could cause it to tear and dispose of the dental dam immediately afterwards. 

 

Why should I use a dental dam? 

A dental dam ensures that you are practicing safe oral sex. You don't need to have penetrative sex to pass on sexually transmitted infections; they can be spread through bodily fluid and skin to skin contact in some cases. This includes: 

  • Chlamydia 
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Herpes 
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) 
  • Syphilis 

 

They also provide better hygiene, especially during anal stimulation. If you have a partner with an STI, this allows you to participate in oral sex without putting yourself at risk while ensuring their comfort.  

 

Will using a dental dam feel different? 

Dental dams are made from latex, which is the same material as condoms. It's a very thin square of latex however so it shouldn't interfere too much with the sensation. You can always apply a small amount of lubricant between the skin and the dental dam if you need some extra stimulation. 

 

Where can I get a dental dam? 

Dental dams should be available from sexual health clinics but they're not always stocked in pharmacies. They're easier to get a hold of online but if you don't have any you can fashion one out of a condom. Simply cut the top off and also down the side so that you can flatten it out into a sheet. 

 

Why have I not heard of a dental dam before? 

There is a lot of debate about why dental dams are not more widely known and circulated. One of the potential reasons is that most sexual health information focusses on contraception rather than preventing STIs. Condoms are the only other device that can prevent the spread of STIs but they still have the dual purpose of also being used as birth control. In contrast, oral sex is viewed as less risky because it cannot result in pregnancy. 

 

There is also still a stigma when it comes to talking about STIs so it can be uncomfortable to bring up the subject with your partner. Due to the lack of education around safe oral sex, dental dams aren't as widely stocked so many people have never seen one in the shops, which again contributes to the lack of awareness. 

 

Sources

Web MD> What is a dental dam? https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/dental-dam-how-to-use

Health line> Everything you need to know about using a dental dam: https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/dental-dam

Glamour> The disappearance of the dental dam: https://www.glamour.com/story/what-happened-to-the-dental-dam

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