What Is A Dental Dam | How Do Dental Dams Work | Play Safe NSW
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Exploring the benefits and purpose of a dental dam

Dental dams may not be trending across social media but could this lesser-known barrier method be a good option for you?

What is a dental dam?

A dental dam is a thin, stretchy piece of latex or polyurethane that can be used during oral sex to reduce the risk of STI’s (kind of like a giant, flat condom without the lube). They’re often just called dams, but are sometimes referred to as oral dams, rubber dams, or barrier sheets. 

Originally designed by dentists (hence the name), dental dams are a really good safe sex option if you’re giving or receiving oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex. 

Don’t worry, dental dams are super thin, so you’ll still be able to feel everything!

How do dental dams work?

When used the right way, dental dams form a physical barrier between the mouth and the genitals, offering you a layer of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Are dental dams effective in preventing STIs?

Yes – when used correctly, dental dams  prevent the spread of STIs like herpes, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia, which can spread through unprotected oral sex.

How to use a dental dam

Using a dental dam is super simple. To make it even easier, we’ve put together a couple of steps to point you in the right direction.

Before you get started

  • Make sure you use a new dental dam for each person.
  • Always switch dams between mouth to anus oral sex and mouth to vagina oral sex to minimise transfer of bacteria from the anus to vagina.
  • Like condoms, dental dams can’t be reused. Make sure that you switch to a new one for each person.
  • Wash your hands before handling the dental dam (and someone else’s genitals for that matter)
  • Check the expiry date and make sure the sheet doesn’t have any tears or rips

How to: use a dental dam

  1. Place the dental dam over your preferred area (vulva, anus etc.)
  2. Keep it in place with your hands by holding either side of the dam, ensuring it remains smooth and flat. Most of the time, a dam is big enough to cover the whole area without too much stretching.
  3. Get down to business. We’re not going to step you through this one (you do you), but make sure the dam is kept the same way up – one side in contact with the anus or vagina, the other side in contact with the mouth. If you’re unsure, grab a fresh dam. 
  4. When you’re done, remove the dental dam from the area, put it in the bin (never the toilet), and wash your hands. 
    How do I tell someone that I’ve got an STI?

Remember, like external condoms, dental dams are single-use and should not be reused.

Where to buy dental dams

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard much (if anything) about dental dams before or why you’ve never noticed them in the condom/lube section of your local supermarket/chemist, you’re not alone. 

For some reason (likely because not many people know about them), dental dams can be hard to come by in physical stores in Australia and typically can only be found in sex shops. The good news is, they’re readily available to purchase online and come in a variety of flavours and colours.

Heads up (get it?), not only can dental dams be hard to find, but they’re usually more expensive than external condoms too. Luckily for you, we’ve put together the ultimate dental dam DIY that will have you transforming a run of the mill, external condom into a dental dam in just a few seconds! 

How to turn a condom into a dental dam

If you’re having trouble finding a dental dam or they don’t fit into your budget, try this:

For each dam, you will need:

  • 1 x condom (make sure it’s in date and the hasn’t been opened)
  • 1 x scissors (literally the only time we will ever encourage scissors near a condom)

Now, follow these simple steps

  1. Grab an external condom and check to make sure it’s in date and sealed 
  2. Gently open the packet and remove the condom
  3. Using your fingers, carefully unroll the condom until fully extended
  4. Using your scissors, cut approximately 1-2cm off the head/top of the condom (sealed end), then cut along the bottom edge (part that’s harder and thicker than the rest of the condom). You should have a condom ‘tube’ at this stage.
  5. Finally, cut along the long side of the condom (from one opening of the tube, to the other).
  6. Voila! You should now have a flat square/rectangle that can safely be used as a dental dam!

As tempting as it may be to prep a bunch of DIY dams ahead of time, we’d suggest making them just before you are going to use it to ensure it stays clean and sanitary.

Dental dam FAQs

Are dental dams and female condoms the same?

No, while dental dams and internal condoms (sometimes referred to as female condoms) both offer barrier protection against STIs, they are different. A dental dam is a thin sheet placed over the genitals during oral sex. On the other hand, an internal condom is worn inside the vagina during penetrative vaginal sex.

How should dental dams be stored?

Just like condoms, you should store dental dams in a cool, dry place and always check the expiry date before use.

Can dental dams be used with lube?

Yes, dental dams can be used with or without lube, it comes down to personal preference. Some people like to use flavoured lubricants to avoid the taste of latex/plastic. However, make sure you only use water or silicone-based lubes as oil-based options can damage the dam.

Can I reuse dental dams?

No, dental dams should not be reused. It’s important that you use a new dental dam for each person.  and dispose of any used dams in the bin (never flush them down the toilet!)

Can dental dams be used for oral sex on a penis?

We wouldn’t recommend it. Dental dams are mostly used for oral sex on the vagina or anus. While using a dental dam for oral sex on a penis may provide some sort of barrier, it may not cover the whole area. For oral sex on a penis, we’d suggest using an external condom instead. 

Can I use other things that aren’t condoms as a dental dam? 

We don’t recommend it. There are some suggestions online that you can use cling wrap or rubber gloves as a dental dam but there’s no scientific research to prove that these have the same effectiveness as condoms.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Speak to a sexual health nurse free today!