A dental dam is a thin sheet of latex that can make oral sex safer. You can hold a dental dam between a mouth and an anus or vulva (the clitoris, lips, and other parts right outside of the vagina). This keeps many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from getting into your mouth, vulva, or anus. People who are allergic to latex can also use or make a latex-free dental dam.
How does a dental dam work?
When someone holds a dental dam between a mouth and a vulva or anus, it acts like a wall to keep many STIs out. Like condoms, dental dams are sometimes called a “barrier method” for protecting against STIs. They’re also sometimes called an “oral barrier”.
Where to buy dental dams
The Centre for Gender Advocacy has dental dams at their offices. They suggest donating 50 cents, but you can take them for free if that’s too much. You can also buy dental dams from the McGill Shag Shop and in some sex shops and pharmacies.
Making a dental dam out of a condom
It’s pretty simple to make a dental dam out of a condom using scissors.
- Take the condom out of the package
- Cut off the tip and the ring at the bottom
- Cut down one long side of the condom, not both
This should leave you with one latex rectangle that you can use just like a dental dam. Some people like to make a few early and keep them in a ziplock bag. This way, you don’t need to interrupt anything to make one!
How to make a dental dam out of a glove
You can also make dental dams from latex or nitrile gloves! To do this, first make sure you’ve got the kind of gloves without talcum powder inside.
- Cut the fingers off the glove but leave the thumb on
- Cut up the side of the glove, opposite of the thumb.
- Now you can open the glove up and lay it flat just like a dental dam – with a sleeve in the middle for your tongue!
How to use a dental dam
Before you use a dental dam, it helps to check to make sure it’s not expired! You can find the expiry date on the packaging. Expired dental dams can break more easily.
To use a dental dam, take it out of its bag and hold it flat over either the vulva or anus. If you’re placing it over the vulva, it helps to make sure that it also covers the clitoris.
Try not to stretch or tear the material, since this could make it not work as well. You can also buy special belts to keep dental dams in place, or use a garter belt!
It’s important to remember which side of the dental dam goes against the vulva or anus when you’re using it. To help avoid confusion, you can make a small mark on one side with a pen. If you ever mix them up, it helps to throw it out and start with a new one.
Like condoms, dental dams can’t be reused. Switching to a new one every time you try a different position or sex act can lower the risk for STIs and other infections.
Just like it can take practice to learn how to use a condom, using dental dams can take a little patience. You might want to practice on your own first. It’s worth it if you enjoy oral sex and you’d like the extra protection against STIs!
Making dental dams even better
Some people don’t like dental dams because of the taste or feel. But there are things that can help!
Adding lube to the side that faces a vulva or anus can help it feel amazing and keep it in place.
If you don’t like the taste of latex, you can also try flavoured condoms or lube. But know that some of these lubes can irritate some anuses and vulvas.
Can I use plastic wrap as a dental dam?
Some people may tell you that you can use plastic wrap as a DIY dental dam. There aren’t studies to tell us whether or not this keeps STIs out, so it’s impossible to say for sure. Plastic wrap usually sticks to itself too, which can make it harder to use than a dental dam, even if it’s made from a condom or glove. That said, using plastic wrap is better than using no barrier.
Barriers: How to Keep Other People’s Body Fluids Out of Your Body
Scarleteen’s article delineating some of the common barrier methods, the importance, and step-by-step diagrams of how to use them. Includes three ways to make barriers easier.
What is a dental dam? – Palo Alto Medical Foundation
A brief description of dental dams.
Planned Parenthood — How do you cut open a condom for oral sex?
Text and visual guide to making a condom into a dental dam/barrier for oral sex.