An A to Z on Dental Dams
By Theresa Matos
Historically, dental dams were first used in dental offices during endodontic surgery such as routine root canals. With the use of a dam holder, the dentist will place a small sheet of latex over the tooth that is being treated and isolate it from the rest of the oral cavity including the tongue and saliva. By isolating the tooth with a dental dam, bacteria that may be present in the oral cavity is blocked from entering the site of surgery.
Similarly, dental dams that are used for safer-sex purposes are square or rectangular pieces of latex or polyurethane that are used for protection during oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex. When a person is performing oral sex, he or she can place the dental dam over his or her partner’s vaginal or anal opening to help prevent the exchange of sexually transmitted diseases. While not 100 percent effective against STDs, when used consistently and correctly a dental dam can reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV because it acts as a barrier to secretions that are produced by the vagina and anus which carry bacteria and viruses.
Dental dams should not used for oral sex on a penis. Male condoms can be used for protection when performing oral sex on a penis. Additionally, dental dams are not a form of birth control and do not protect against pregnancy. They are not to be used for vaginal or anal sexual intercourse.
How to Use a Dental Dam
The first step to ensuring proper use is to check the expiration date on the dental dam. The expiration date can often be found on the back or bottom of the package, and it should list the month and year or expiration. If expired, it is not recommended for use. If it is not expired, the next step is opening the package of the dental dam. This should be done with caution. Do not tear the package open with teeth or rip it open with fingernails or any other sharp objects such as scissors. Carefully open the package and pull the dental dam out. Once out of the package, always inspect the dental dam for any tears, discoloration, brittleness or stickiness. If any of these signs are present, throw it away and open up a new dental dam.
Once it has been determined that the dental dam is completely intact, the next step is to check for the presence of talc/powder on the dental dam. Many non-flavored dental dams come with talc on them and this needs to be rinsed off with water before use. Once it has been rinsed off, gently towel dry it or let it air dry before use. At this point, some individuals choose to mark their initials on the side of the dental dam that they plan on placing their mouth on during oral sex. This is to ensure that they do not make the mistake of accidentally using the side of the dental dam that is placed down on their partner’s vagina or anus. If choosing to initial the dental dam, make sure to use a non-toxic smooth writing utensil, like a smooth tipped marker. Make sure the writing utensil does not cause any tears or breaks on the dental dam.
After the dental dam has dried off, lubrication can be placed on the partner’s vagina or anus and to the side of the dental dam that is going to be placed down on the vagina or anus. Water-based or silicone-based lubrication is recommended because it may help increase sensation. Oil-based lubricants, such as massage and baby oils, are not recommended because it deteriorates the effectiveness of latex which most dental dams are made from.
After lubrication is applied, place the lubricated side of the dental dam down on the receiving partner’s vagina or anus. Make sure to cover the entire vaginal opening and clitoris or anal cavity. While some dental dams have adhesive and may stay in place during oral sex, it is important to hold the dental dam securely in place as this will prevent contact with bodily fluids. The individual performing oral sex or the partner receiving oral sex can hold the dental dam in place. For those who would like the experience of being hands-free, a “Dammit” can be purchased. A dammit is made up of a pair of leather straps that have snaps which are adjusted around the receiver’s legs to hold the dental dam securely in place. It is somewhat similar to a garter belt.
A dental dam should not be moved between the vagina to the anus or visa versa because this can allow for infection to occur. Always use a new dental dam when proceeding to give oral sex on a different part of a partner’s body such as the vagina or anus. During oral sex, it is important to handle the dental dam with care so that it does not break or tear. Avoid chewing or biting the dental dam during oral sex because this can result in breakage and the exchange of bodily fluids. Do not flip the dental dam over; only use one side of the dental dam when performing oral sex on the vagina or anus.
After performing oral sex with it, carefully lift and remove the dental dam making sure not to come in contact with the partner’s vaginal or anal fluids. Wash one’s hands and mouth and throw away the dental dam after use in a wastebasket as it is only good for one use. Do not dispose of it in a toilet because this can cause the toilet to clog. Always use a new dental dam with each oral sex act. It is important to make sure not to share or reuse a dental dam. If all steps are followed consistently and correctly, one can help reduce his or her chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Will Using a Dental Dam Ruin the Experience of Oral Sex?
Some people believe that using a dental dam will ruin the sexual pleasure of oral sex. This is all relative to the individual. There are some individuals that feel dental dams decrease sensation while others may enjoy the way a dental dam feels during oral sex. Nevertheless, having a latex barrier, such as a dental dam, placed on the vagina or anus, will feel different from the sensation that one gets when a tongue or mouth is placed on the vagina or anus without a barrier. However, this does not mean that no physical sensation can be felt on the vagina or anus. Using a dental dam with or without lubrication may offer one’s partner a new form of stimulus.
Different Types of Dental Dams
When dental dams first hit the public market, they were only offered in one large size and were often very thick in nature. Currently, there are a variety of dental dams available to public consumers. They can usually be bought at most adult stores and some drugstores and pharmacies. They are also readily available for purchase online. There are different sizes, colors, flavors,and scents. Sheer Glyde Dams, one of the first dams on the market specifically intended for oral-vaginal and oral-anal sex, offer sheer 10-inch-by-6 inch dental dams which are made from silky thin sheets of scented latex. LIXX Dental Dams by Trustex Latex offer thin smaller-sized square dental dams measuring 6 inches by 8 inches. They come in a variety of flavors and a lightly scented assortment including grape, mint, vanilla, strawberry and banana.
For those who might have latex allergies, polyurethane dental dams are also available through Hot Dam. Hot Dams are non-latex dental dams that are made for people with latex allergies. They have no latex scent and each dam is made up of a 6-inch-by-8-inch square sheet of polyurethane. Non-microwavable plastic wrap, such as Saran Wrap, can also be used by those who suffer from latex allergies. To make a dental dam from plastic wrap, carefully cut out a large square sheet of non-microwavable plastic wrap and use it following the same steps as with any other form of dental dams. It is important to note that microwavable plastic wrap and animal skin substitutes are porous and permeable which could allow for bacteria and viruses to pass through from partner to partner during oral sex.
Don’t Have a Dental Dam? Make One!
Don’t have a dental dam but want to be protected? Dental dams can also be made out of male and female condoms or latex gloves.
To make a dental dam from a male condom, a male condom and scissors are needed. The first step is to check the expiration date on the condom and make sure it has not been tampered with. Squeezing the condom to one side of its wrapping while it is sealed and making sure it has an air bubble can indicate if it is damaged. An air bubble should be present as this is a sign that the condom wrapping has never been opened. If no air bubble is present when the packaging is squeezed, this may mean that it has been damaged. Use a new condom if this occurs. Otherwise, proceed to carefully opening up the wrapping making sure not to use teeth, fingernails, or any other sharp object that could tear the condom. Once the condom is out of the package, unroll the condom and use the scissors to cut off the reservoir tip which is located at the end of the condom. After the tip has been cut off, cut along the length of one side of the condom. Once cut open, the condom will look like a square piece of latex. It is now ready to be used as a dental dam.
The same steps can essentially be taken when making a dental dam from a female condom.
To make a dental dam from a latex glove, a latex glove and scissors are needed. Hold the latex glove and carefully cut off the four fingers on the glove. Make sure not to cut off the thumb. Then proceed to cut the glove lengthwise opposite the side of the thumb. Once this is complete, unfold the glove. The thumb should be centered once unfolded. It is now ready to be used as a dental dam. One’s tongue or fingers can also be used in the thumb opening. Additionally, the fingers cut off from the glove during the earlier part of the procedure can be used as a protective barrier when placing a finger in the vaginal opening or anus. Simply take a latex finger that was cut off from the glove and pull it over the finger of choice. Make sure it is secure on the finger and cannot slip off the finger during insertion into the vaginal or anal opening. Cut-off latex glove fingers should not be placed on a penis for protection. Condoms can be used on a penis as a protective barrier during sexual intercourse.
Remember: Practicing safer-sex does not mean that fun can’t be involved. Have fun and enjoy all the different types of dental dams and safer-sex products out there!