Everyone knows what a condom is. But do you know what a dental dam (oral dam) is – or when you’d use one?
It’s time you were in the know.
A dental dam, dam or oral dam is a soft plastic square or rectangle about 15cm by 15cm.
You might use one cover your vagina or anus to prevent contact. But we’ll get more onto why your butthole might appreciate one later.
And when they come in different flavors too – from grape to tingly mint, why wouldn’t you want to find out more?
Fortunately, here at Gay Star News, we’ve given you a head start by sitting down with Natika Halil is the Chief Executive of the sexual health charity FPA.
She tells GSN, their survey for Sexual Health Week reveals most people don’t learn about the risk of STIs during oral sex at school.
Over half say they didn’t even know STIs could be passed during oral sex. This is when the dam comes in.
Similar to condoms, it acts as a barrier to prevent STIs passing from one person to another.
They’re used far and in-between however when it’s yet another amazing method we can use in the mission to protect yourself from an STI.
Is anyone using dental dams?
An Australian survey asked women at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras about their usage of dental dams.
Among the 330 women who had oral sex with other women in the last six months, only one in 10 had used a dental dam. Just 2% said they use one ‘often.’
The survey suggested women didn’t use dams as a prevention method against STIs. Instead, their most common use was for women rimming or when they were having ‘fetish sex involving blood.’
It also found that they were more likely to use latex gloves and condoms over dams for protection.
How do they work?
First things first, when you get your tingly mint dam out the packet, you should rinse it. That’s because it’s coated in a chalk-like substance that isn’t healthy or very nice for your butthole or vagina.
Lube is also recommended. (Basically essential)
This is because when your tongue is going to action, it will dry up – after all, there are no bodily fluids to act as lube.
To stop it flip flopping all over the place, someone will need to hold the dam in place with their hands.
Also, definitely do not move a dam from an anus to the vagina. Bacteria that lives harmlessly in the anus will cause infection in the vagina. And nobody wants that.
Remember just like condoms, check the expiry date and for holes.
With condoms in mind, pro tip here: you don’t even need to go out to buy one if you already have condoms!
There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to cut a condom into a dental dam. Who knew condoms were so nifty?
Dental dams are for everyone, not just vaginas
The common belief is they’re only for women who have sex with other women. But really, everyone can and should use them!
While protection isn’t particularly sexy, it is smart.
Why should people use dams?
There is a pretty big list of STIs that can be passed through oral sex.
Gonorrhoea, genital herpes, and syphilis can all be passed. An infection of chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and genital warts through oral sex are less common but can still happen.
Common STIs like gonorrhea are starting to become more resistant to antibiotic treatment. With super gonorrhea on the rise, it’s best to protect yourself in the first place.
Brook is another sexual health charity.
Their medical director, Dr Anatole S Menon-Johansson, explained: ‘Dental dams would contribute to safer sex; however, they are not popular or promoted in clinics.
‘When a woman receives oral sex the biggest risk is for herpes and syphilis. It is possible to transmit gonorrhea and chlamydia but this is more difficult as the organism is found in the pharynx (throat) with a lower dose in the saliva.’
Shigellosis is another condition you could prevent yourself from contracting by using a dental dam. This one is particularly important when you are licking a butthole.
It’s an intestinal disease that causes bloody diarrhea, stomach pain, a fever and the constant need to poo even when your bowels are empty.
To prevent contracting a Shigellosis infection, consider using a dam when you’re rimming. It’s passed by exposure to poo during sexual contact with someone who already has it.