Oral Sex Condoms: What Is a Dental Dam?

    Updated 14 April 2020 |
    Published 17 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    Oral sex is a sexual activity that doesn’t lead to pregnancy, and therefore sometimes is seen as relatively safe. That’s why many people ignore or forget that you can still contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from it.

    Dental dams are a simple and affordable way to make oral sex safe for both partners, but do you know how to use them? Even though the use of male condoms is relatively common, dental dams are comparatively unknown to many people. Read this article to discover everything you need to know about dental dams.

    What is a dental dam? 

    Dental dams are very simple devices that create a barrier between a woman’s genital area and her partner’s mouth during oral sex. Basically, they act as a “tongue condom” that protects both partners from STIs.

    Dental dams are very thin sheets usually made of latex or polyurethane, and most of them have a square shape. They come individually packaged, just like male condoms. Dental dams are available in a wide array of colors; they can also come with or without lubricant. You can even find flavored dental dams.

    How to make a dental dam 

    Unlike male condoms, dental dams can be hard to find in stores. If you’re ever in a pinch and don’t have a commercial dental dam on hand, you can make one at home.

    First, find a non-lubricated condom. If you’re going to use a lubricated condom, try to find one that uses flavored lubricant, since the taste of non-flavored lubricant can be quite unpleasant. Unroll the condom and, using a pair of scissors, cut off the rim and tip of the condom. 

    Once you’ve done this, cut down the length of the condom. This will create a thin square of material that’s practically identical to commercial dental dams. If you don’t have a male condom available, you can use a sheet of plastic wrap. Plastic wrap isn’t designed to be used as a dental dam and it won’t offer the same degree of protection, but it’s better than performing unprotected oral sex. Bear in mind that plastic wrap is delicate and can rip easily.

    Dental dam sex

    Dental dams are very thin, which means that oral sex with a dental dam will be just as pleasurable as it is without one. Dental dams should be used each time you perform vaginal or anal oral sex.

    If either partner is allergic to latex, try using a polyurethane dental dam. If you’re going to perform mouth-to-penis oral sex, try using a condom rather than a dental dam. Using a dental dam is a simple and effective way to stay safe from STIs while still enjoying oral sex.

    How to use a dental dam for oral sex

    Before performing oral sex, check your dental dam’s expiration date and take it out of its package. Make sure it doesn’t have any tears or defects before placing it over your vaginal or anal opening. Keep it in place during oral sex without stretching it, since this could cause tears. 

    Keep in mind that you should only use a dental dam once, and you should never turn it over during oral sex. Once oral sex is over, discard the used dental dam. If you’re going to use a lubricant with your dental dam, make sure it’s water or silicone based to avoid damaging the dam. Just like with male condoms, oil-based products can lead to breakage.

    How safe is dental dam oral sex? 

    Believe it or not, many STIs can be transmitted during oral sex. The most common STIs that you can get during oral sex include:

    It’s important to keep in mind that a partner with an STI might be asymptomatic and unaware that they might be contagious. Some of these diseases, such as HPV and herpes, aren’t transmitted exclusively through sex. Instead, they can be transmitted through any skin-to-skin contact with an active lesion. As long as the dental dam stays in place, they can cover these lesions and protect against these infections as well.

    When left untreated, STIs can cause complications such as:

    • pelvic inflammatory disease 
    • ectopic pregnancy
    • low birth weight or premature labor
    • epididymitis in men
    • urinary tract infections
    • skin sores
    • further spread of the disease
    • disseminated gonococcal infection

    Orally transmitted STIs can produce systemic infections such as HIV or they can lead to mouth and throat symptoms such as in HPV. Although the exact efficacy of dental dams hasn’t been established through scientific studies, it’s widely recommended that you use them to prevent these STIs.

    The oral form of some of these STIs, such as gonorrhea, can be even harder to treat than their genital counterparts. These diseases can spread through the body, which means that they could eventually lead to the same symptoms as a genitally acquired infection. These diseases can also remain dormant for some time, which increases the risk of transmitting the pathogen to another person without realizing it.

    Although the use of oral dams isn’t as widespread as the use of male or female condoms, it’s still important to avoid spreading STIs while practicing oral sex. It’s important to insist on the use of a dental dam while receiving or performing oral-to-vaginal or oral-to-anal sex, since this is the only method that can prevent the spread of STIs during this sexual activity.

    Dental dams, which serve as a sort of “mouth condom,” are a simple and affordable way to avoid the spread of orally transmitted STIs. Keep in mind that many STIs can be spread through oral sex. You can use a commercial dental dam or create your own dam out of a male condom. Either way, using them regularly is key to avoiding many infections that can lead to harmful complications.

    Make sure you use a dental dam whenever you have oral sex to help stay STI-free while enjoying this pleasurable activity!

    History of updates

    Current version (14 April 2020)

    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist

    Published (17 April 2019)

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