Dental dams: Everything you need to know about the safe-oral sex barrier material

Dental dams are just as important as condoms for protection against STIs but pricier, and not as common.

Condoms are the most common safe-sex products on the market
© Getty Images
Condoms are the most common safe-sex products on the market

When it comes to safe sex, the focus is usually on penetrative sex—one of the reasons why condoms are so easily accessible. However, it is still highly possible to transmit STIs such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and hepatitis through oral sex.

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But how do you protect yourself and your partner against these infections while still allowing for clitoral and anal stimulation?

Dental dam is the answer you are looking for. Sounds unfamiliar? I bet you have seen it during your last visit to the dentist. It is this latex rectangle sheath used by dentists to isolate the teeth during dental procedures. The dental dams used for the purpose of protecting against orally transmitted bacteria and infections are thinner than what your dentist uses.

How do dental dams work?

They are pretty easy to use, actually. Just like when using a condom, you’re advised to be careful when taking this material out of its packaging to avoid tears or holes.

Once you pull the piece of its protective case, unfold it and place it over your partner's vagina or anus. It is usually wide enough to cover the entire breadth of genital area you intend performing oral sex on.

Avoid stretching the dam or pressing it too tightly against your partner’s skin as it would naturally stick onto the body through moisture.

Now you are ready to go to town! Should it get crumbled up during the act, replace it with a new one.

Not readily available

Unlike condoms which you can buy in pharmacies, convenient shops, or even in the bathrooms of some nightclubs, dental dams are not easily accessible. Your local family planning or sexual health clinic may have some in stock for free distribution.You might find them in adult shops or simply order them online.

They tend to be a bit pricier than condoms. A quick search on Amazon shows that an average eight-pack of dental dams would cost you between €10 and €16. They come in different sizes and flavours as well to spice things up down there.There are also dental dams made from non-latex raw materials for people who have latex allergy.

Why not DIY?

It is the one safe sex product that health professionals advice people to DIY. You simply tear open a new pack of condom, unroll it and cut out the tip and rolled ends. You then cut along the side of the condom, roll it out and voilà, your improvised dental dam is ready to use.

So if you are curious about oral anal sex but are a bit uncertain about how hygienic it could be, or if you are sexually active with a non-exclusive partner, you should consider using this barrier protection method to reduce your risk of sharing or ingesting bacteria and infections orally.

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