Dental dams are small, thin, square pieces of latex used to protect the throat during certain kinds of dental work. They can also be placed on the anus or vagina when the mouth, lips, or tongue are used during sex. Like the condom, dams keep partners’ body fluids out of each other’s bodies and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections when performing oral sex.

How does it work?

When used, the dental dam is stretched across the anal opening or a woman’s vagina to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids. Unlike condoms, the dental dam itself is not lubricated, but using a water-based lubricant on the anal/vaginal side of the dental dam may be useful in helping to keep it in place, and to increase sensation. Dental dams come in plain and flavored latex squares or a flavored water-based lubricant may be used to enhance the taste during oral sex. If you do not have a dental dam, it is also possible to use plastic wrap, or a cut-open condom to cover the anus or vulva. Dental dams help to reduce the risk of HIV transmission during oral-vaginal and oral-anal sex, in addition to other diseases which can be transmitted from mouth to anus/vagina or vice-versa, including herpes and genital warts.

Dental Dam Precautions

When using (or making) a dental dam, be certain that the dam covers the entire anal opening or vulva and that it can be held at both edges. Be careful not to flip the dental dam over during oral sex, as this defeats the purpose of not coming in contact with your partner’s bodily fluids. Never re-use dental dams.

How do you get it?

Dental dams can be made out of condoms or latex gloves (or Saran Wrap). This means that you can get the makings of a dental dam almost anywhere. If you are looking for the real thing, you can buy them at local erotic shops and online. Dental dams are not yet available in many drug stores or pharmacies.

How much does it cost?

Dental dams run from 50 cents to around $3 per dam, depending on size, color, flavor, etc. Buying a multi-pack makes them cheaper.

Many health centers, family planning clinics (including Vista Community Clinic) and some schools distribute them free of charge.

Adapted from a document of the University of Chicago Student Care Center: http://scc.uchicago.edu/pdf/library/Dental_Dams.pdf