Dental Dams Should Be Used by Everyone - Here's Why

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Dental Dams Should Be Used by Everyone - Here's Why

Because it's highly likely you need to be using them rn.

Dental dams - despite being super-vital to safe sex - still seem to be a bit of a mystery. Sure, we all know about condoms (you're having cringe flashbacks to condoms on carrots as you read this, aren't you?) But did you know dental dams are equally as necessary to have in your bedside drawer/wallet/backpack.


"There is a common misconception that oral sex is 'safe'," says Simone Taylor, education and wellbeing regional lead for sexual health charity Brook. "But while you can't get pregnant from oral sex, you can still catch STIs such as herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HPV and even HIV."


She explains because safe oral sex isn't discussed as often frequently, a lot of people aren't as aware of dental dams as they are of condoms.
how to use a dental dam


Here, Simone answers every question you could have about dental dams, like, "What the hell even are they?" And, "Who needs to use them?"



What are dental dams?

A dental dam is a soft plastic latex or polyurethane square, which is used to cover the vulva, or anus, during oral sex, Simone explains.


The dam acts as a barrier to help prevent some STIs (including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV) that can be transmitted through oral sex, and dental dams act as a barrier between the vulva and the mouth, and the anus and mouth.



Who needs to use dental dams?

Dental dams are not only used for vaginal oral sex, but also during anal oral sex - or rimming.


In short: anyone having these types of oral sex should use a dental dam, just as we recommend that people with penises should wear a condom when having oral sex.



Do dental dams reduce sensation?

As with other types of safe-sex measures, such as condoms, people often worry that using dental dams will reduce the sensation of receiving oral sex. The truth is; it depends. "Pleasure is a highly individual experience and can vary greatly from person to person,' says Cassie Mørch, a sex expert. "Some people might find that using a dental dam diminishes sensation somewhat, while others might not notice a significant difference."


But, Cassie points out, many people find that the peace of mind that comes with using protection allows them to better relax and enjoy the experience more fully. Plus: "The flexible piece of latex is super thin and very quickly warms up to your body temperature. It’s designed to be used without compromising sexual pleasure!" she says.



How do you use dental dams?

1. Check the expiry date, and that it has a CE mark (this means it's legit)


2. Wet the vulva or anal area with water-based lube, or silicone-based lube, as this makes sure the dam won't slip off (and can add sensation for the receiver)


*It's important to note oil-based lube should NEVER be used with dental dams (or condoms), as this will destroy the latex. And while silicone-based lube is fine to use with latex, it should never be used with silicone sex toys.


3. Place the dam over the vulva or anus before any oral-to-genital, or oral-to-anal contact


4. Either the giver or receiver can hold it in place


5. Don’t turn the dam over. Make sure the side in contact with the genitals stays on that side


6. Like condoms, dams can only be used once - you'll need to use a new one each time


7. Remember it's important not to transfer the dam between the anus and vagina


8. When you're done, wrap it in tissue and pop it in a bin - not down the toilet, as this will block it


When it comes to giving going down on someone who's wearing a dental dam - there's not special technique, but proceed as usual.



Where to get dental dams (or make your own)

Admittedly, they're not always easy to get hold of. If you are under 25, you can get dental dams for free from some sexual health clinics. You can also order them online (just make sure they are from a trusted source), and pharmacies may be able to order them in for you - however these can be expensive.


Here are the dental dams we have available at The Art of Loving.


Something Brook often encourages and shows people how to do is make their own dams from condoms.


You do this by rolling the condom out, cutting off the tip and the ring, and then along its length to create a rectangle.



Written by: Paisley Gilmour and Lois Shearing on Cosmopolitan