Sexuality and U


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Dental Dam

What is a dental dam?

A dental dam is a thin square of latex that can be used to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.  They can be bought in some stores, or you can make your own using a condom or a latex glove. They are called “dental” dams because they were originally designed as a protective measure for dentists working on a patient’s teeth.

Dental Dam Photo

How does a dental dam work?

The dental dam is placed over a woman’s vulva before her partner performs oral sex on her, and acts as a barrier between her partner’s mouth and her genitals.  This helps to prevent sexually transmitted infections from spreading. They can also be used by men or women to prevent STIs while “rimming”, which is oral sex performed on a partners’ anus.

Performing oral sex on a woman carries lower STI risks than vaginal sex, anal sex or performing oral sex on a man, but there are still risks of transmitting several STIs. Rimming, by contrast, is much more dangerous, as it carries STI risks (including a risk of Hepatitis A), and can cause several other illnesses because of bacteria or parasite infections.

Remember, sexually transmitted infections can be passed from mouth-to-penis and penis-to-mouth too, so men should wear condoms during oral sex for protection.

Where can I get dental dams?

Because dental dams are still a relatively new safer-sex method, so they are not widely available yet.  Look for dental dams at your local drugstore, pharmacy or sexual health clinic, or order them online. Some specialty sex shops may also carry them.  Just like condoms, dental dams come in a wide range of flavours and colours, so do some experimenting. If you can’t find them in stores, don’t sweat it.  They are incredibly easy to make, and the homemade versions work just as well as the real deal!

How do you make a dental dam?

Making a dental dam is very, very easy!  All you need is a pair of scissors, a male condom and about 30 seconds.  Here is how you do it:
Making a Dental Dam (Step 1) English

Carefully take the condom out of its package and unroll it. 


 Making a Dental Dam (Step 2) English
Cut off the tip and base of the condom and cut down the length of the tube. 

Making a Dental Dam (Step 3)English

Unroll the condom into a rectangular sheet. 

 And that’s it! You now have a highly effective dental dam.

Hint: For the best results, use unlubricated condoms that haven’t been treated with a spermicide (they tend to taste bad), and you might want to try out flavoured, thin-latex condoms. These days, condoms come in a wide variety of flavours - so shop around and see which ones taste best!

A few tips on using dental dams
  • Put a few drops of water-based (latex-friendly) lubricant between the dam and your vagina/anus. It will make it more sensitive and it will likely hold in place better.
  • Never reuse a dental dam or flip it over and use the other side. Once you’re done with it, throw it away.
  • Use your hands to hold the dam in place, or ask your partner to.  A Dental dam won’t work if it won’t hold still.
  • Store-bought or homemade dams are made of thin latex for high sensitivity. For even more sensitivity, try making your homemade dams out of thinner latex condoms (usually labeled as thin or “extra” sensitivity).
  • Some people are allergic to latex, and dental dams may give them a rash.  Have no worries!  You can buy polyurethane dental dams (try ordering them online), or you can make your own by cutting a male or female woman’s polyurethane condom into a rectangular sheet.
  • Some people also use non-microwaveable plastic wrap (Saran Wrap®) as dental dams. This has not been studied in depth yet, but there is evidence that non-microwaveable plastic wrap can stop virus-sized particles, which could mean it can prevent STIs. Until this has been studied in more detail, sticking with latex dams or condoms (or even a cut-open latex glove) is probably your safest bet.  However, plastic wrap is certainly better than nothing, as it does provide at least some level of protection against STIs.
  • Have fun, experiment with different types of dams and condoms, and find out what you like best!