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The Real Story about Dental Dams

Giving and receiving oral sex can be fun and feel good. But if you and your partner don’t use protection, you increase your risk for sexually transmitted infections. For oral sex on a penis, an external (male) condom can be used. Some are flavored to make oral sex enjoyable for the giver! But what about protection for oral sex on a vagina or anus? Enter…. dental dams!

What are dental dams?

Dental dams are thin, flexible sheets of latex or polyurethane (plastic) that act as a barrier between your mouth and your partner’s vagina or anus during oral sex. Like external and internal condoms, a dental dam protects you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections.

Dental dams were originally designed for use during dental procedures, but in the 1990s, people began using them for protection during oral sex. They prevent skin-to-skin contact. They also keep your partner’s body fluids out of your mouth, and keep your body fluids out of your partner’s vagina or anus. Finally, they protect against bacteria found in fecal matter, such as Escherichia coli (E. Coli), during oral sex on an anus.

How do I use a dental dam?

Using a dental dam is easy! During oral sex on a vagina, place the dental dam flat over the vaginal opening. The dental dam will serve as a barrier between the mouth of the person giving oral sex and the vagina of the person receiving it. During oral sex on an anus, place the dental dam over the anus. The dental dam will serve as a barrier between the mouth and the anus.

The dental dam must be held in place during oral sex by either the person giving or the person receiving. If the dental dam slips or is punctured during oral sex, stop immediately and replace it with a new, fresh one before resuming oral sex. After finishing, throw away the dental dam in the trash immediately and wash your hands with soap and water.

Click here to learn more about the dos and don’ts of dental dams when using them.

Where can I get dental dams?

Finding dental dams might not be as easy as finding external or internal condoms. But don’t stress out! There are different places you can get them at. You might be able to get them for free at your Tribal clinic, community health center, and sexual health organizations, like Planned Parenthood. Finally, you can buy dental dams at some grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies.

When you are in a pinch, you can make your own using an external condom! Watch Auntie Manda show you how here.

To learn more about dental dams and how to use them, check out these related resources:

Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.

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