Healthy lives for young people
STIs

Dental dams

A dental dam is a soft plastic latex or polyurethane square (about 15cm in size), which could be used to cover the female genital area or anus during oral sex. The dam might be useful in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but there is currently no research to verify this.

How do dental dams work?

Dams helps to act as a barrier during oral sex involving contact between the mouth and the vulva, or mouth and the anus. The dam might be useful in preventing STIs but there is currently no research to verify this.

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.

Only use each dam once

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

How do I get dental dams?

You can get dental dams (available in different flavours) at some GUM and sexual health clinics, contraception clinics, pharmacies and mail order. There is currently a supply shortage of dental dams at Brook clinics so please call ahead to check availability before attending.

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?

  1. Ensure that the dam is in date and has a European CE mark
  2. Wet the vulva or anal area with a water-based lubricant to ensure that the dam doesn’t slip off
  3. Place the dam over the vulva or anus before any oral to genital or oral to anal contact.
  4. Either the giver or receiver can hold the dam in place
  5. Don’t turn the dam over. Make sure the side in contact with the genitals stays on that side.
  6. Dams should only be used once. Use a new dam each time you have oral sex
  7. Lubricant can be added to the side of the dam in contact with the vulva or anus for extra sensation
  8. 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
  9. 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.

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