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Dental dams

A dental dam is a soft plastic latex or polyurethane square (about 15cm in size), which is used to cover the female genital area or anus during oral sex. The dam acts as a barrier to help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Some key facts are:

  • Some STIs can be transmitted through oral sex, and dental dams act as a barrier between the vulva and the mouth, and the anus and mouth 
  • Dental dams are squares of latex or polyurethane
  • They are available in different flavours
  • Dental dams can also be used with lubricants, however oil based products should not be used with latex dams as these will destroy the latex
  • Each dental dam should only be used once

How do dental dams work?

Dams act as a barrier during oral sex involving contact between the mouth and the vulva, or mouth and the anus.

The STIs most commonly passed on through oral sex are: gonorrhoea, genital herpes and syphilis. Infections which can still be transmitted through oral sex (although less frequently) are: chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, genital warts, and pubic lice.

Each dental dam should only be used once, and you should use a new dam for each sexual activity – for example you shouldn’t move a dam from the anus to the vulva as this can transmit bacteria and cause an infection.

Lubricant can also be used with dams. A small amount can be put on the side in contact with the vulva or anus. Be careful not to use oil-based lubricants with latex dental dams as these will rot the latex and prevent the dam from working. It is better to stick to water based lubricants.

How do I get dental dams?

You can get dental dams at:

You can also make your own dams from condoms, by rolling the condom out, cutting off the tip and the ring, and then along its length to create a rectangle.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you're at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

How do you use dental dams?

  • Ensure that the dam is in date and has a European CE mark
  • Wet the vulva or anal area with a water-based lubricant to ensure that the dam doesn’t slip off
  • Place the dam over the vulva or anus before any oral to genital or oral to anal contact.
  • Either the giver or receiver can hold the dam in place
  • Don’t turn the dam over. Make sure the side in contact with the genitals stays on that side.
  • Dams should only be used once. Use a new dam each time you have oral sex
  • Lubricant can be added to the side of the dam in contact with the vulva or anus for extra sensation
  • Use only water or silicon based products with latex dams - do not use oil-based products e.g. vaseline or baby oil with latex dams as they damage them very quickly. If you are using polyurethane dams (non-latex) you can use oil-based products
  • Wrap in tissue and dispose of it in a bin, not down the toilet, as this will block it

If anything goes wrong or you are worried you may need to be tested for STIs.

Page reviewed: September 2015
Next review due: September 2017