Dental Dams

Two dentists working on a patient wearing a dental dam.

Dental dams are small, square pieces of latex or silicone rubber that are placed outside the vulva or anus. Dental dams prevent the transfer of bodily fluids by creating a barrier between the mouth and vulva or anus during oral sex. If a dam is not available at your local drugstore, plastic saran wrap from your kitchen or cut male or female condoms can also be used. Dental dams are for one-time use only and are NOT designed for pregnancy prevention.

It is still possible to transmit sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and bacterial infections through oral sex, though the risk is low compared to unprotected vaginal and/or anal sex. Dental Dams are an extremely effective method to decrease the risk of contracting an STI or bacterial infection from cunnilingus (oral-vaginal sex) or analingus (oral-anal sex). For oral contact with a penis, it is safest to use a condom so that it will not slip. Dental dams prevent the spread of many STIs, such as herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts and HIV, which all can be contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids.

To read more about the importance of using a barrier during oral sex, click here.

How To Use a Dental Dam?

Check to make sure there are no holes or tears in the material. It may be necessary to rinse-off the dental dam before use, especially if it has a powdery cornstarch substance on it (the powder may create vaginal irritation).

If the dental dam is not pre-lubricated, apply a small amount of water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly, to the side that will touch the vagina or anus. This will increase sensation for you and your partner and prevent friction. Oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, baby oil, or lotion, can weaken the latex and therefore should not be used.

Lube being poured on a banana

Spread and hold the dental dam over the entire vulva (female exterior genitals) or anus. Partners can then safely stimulate the user’s vulva or anal region with their tongue.

Remember: Like a latex or polyurethane condom, a dental dam is for one-time use. The dental dam should not be moved from one body part to another, and users should never turn one side of the dental dam over to use the other side. Both practices may cause the spread and transfer of bacteria and bodily fluids, thus defeating its purpose.

Tip: Use flavored dental dams or lubricants specifically designed for oral sex to increase pleasure.

How to Make a Dental Dam from a Male Condom

Here are steps on how to make a dental dam out of a male condom:

  1. Check the expiration date of a male condom and look for signs of possible damages to ensure that the condom is still effective.
  2. Cut the tip and the bottom band of the condom off.
  3. Cut down one side of the condom and unfold the material. You should now have a rectangle of material that may be used as a dental dam.

Tip: Use non-lubricated condoms without spermicide. Lubricated condoms may taste unpleasant and spermicide can cause the tongue to go numb.

Flavored condoms and special lubricants designed for oral sex may improve the experience.

Two brightly colored condoms still in their packaging


Palo Alto Medical Foundation

The Naked Truth

US Department of Veterans Affairs

Last Updated: 10 October 2013.