Oral sex is one of the most intimate sexual acts partners can engage in, and an exciting part of a healthy and trusting sexual relationship. It’s often performed as part of foreplay, but it can also be the main event and something you take your time with and put a lot of effort into. Some people even prefer oral sex over penetrative sex.
You might be a seasoned oral sex expert, or perhaps you want to give it a go for the first time. Either way, you’ll most likely want to do it in a safe and hygienic way. It’s possible to spread STIs (sexually transmitted infections) through oral sex, something which is often overlooked when people talk about having safe sex, so it’s important to take precuations.
Many people don’t know there’s a way to reduce the risk of catching STIs during oral sex involving the vulva or anus: using a dental dam. They’re not marketed or talked about as much as condoms, but they can help both partners enjoy oral sex without risking either of your health.
Read on to learn all about using dental dams for fun but safe oral sex.
What is a dental dam?
A dental dam is a thin sheet of rectangular or square latex (or polyurethane for those allergic to latex) which covers female genitals or the anus during oral sex to reduce the risk of catching STIs. Having this barrier in place helps prevent infections spreading from one person to another during anal or vulval stimulation.
Originally designed for the dental industry to isolate a specific area of the mouth, dental dams have been repurposed for safe and hygienic oral sex. The ones used for oral sex are generally thinner than those used during dental procedures, so you need to use the correct type. As they’re made of thin material, oral sex should still be pleasurable for the receiver.
Dental dams can be used with or without lubricant, and you can also choose flavoured and scented ones for enhanced pleasure. They’re only used for oral sex performed on the vulva or anus; for oral sex on a penis a condom should be used.
Contrary to myth, they’re not just designed for homosexual couples - they should be used during oral sex on the vulva or anus, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation.
What are the benefits of using a dental dam?
We hear a lot about safety during penetrative sex to prevent STIs, but oral sex also poses a risk if you don’t use a barrier method like an oral dam. STIs can pass between people through skin-to-skin contact and the transfer of bodily fluids, including when the mouth comes into contact with the genital or anal area.
Having that peace of mind that you’re protecting yourself and your partner as much as possible by using a dental dam might actually make oral sex more enjoyable as it will help you relax a bit more knowing you’re keeping safe.
What STIs can you catch from oral sex?
There are a number of infections which can be transmitted through oral sex, including:
- Gonorrhoea - the bacteria that causes gonorrhoea can be found in vaginal fluid and discharge from the penis, so it can be spread through both oral and penetrative sex. Symptoms include a thick yellow or green discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when urinating, and, for women, bleeding between periods. Many people, however, do not experience any symptoms and therefore may not know they’re carrying it.
- Chlamydia - one of the most common STIs, this bacterial infection is spread through contact with genital fluids. Symptoms include pain when urinating, pain and swelling of the testicles in men, and for women unusual vaginal discharge, along with bleeding after sex and between periods. Unfortunately many people with chlamydia don’t display any obvious symptoms of the infection.
- HIV - a virus which damages the immune system and a person’s ability to fight infection, HIV is characterised by a short, flu-like illness after the initial infection, after which there are often no further symptoms. It’s spread through infected bodily fluids, including vaginal and anal fluids.
- Syphilis - a bacterial infection spread through unprotected sex or sexual contact, it starts as a painless sore on the mouth, genitals or rectum which develops a few weeks after exopsure to the infection. This can then be followed by a rash over the body and more sores or wart-like growths on the genitals or in the mouth. Other symptoms include flu-like illness and white patches in the mouth.
- Hepatitis B - a serious virus that attacks the liver, it can be spread through transfer of bodily fluids during sex (including oral sex). Those infected with hepatitis don’t always get symptoms, but if they do common ones include fever, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), aching muscles and joints, dark-coloured urine, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
Other STIs such as the herpes virus, HPV and public lice can be spread through oral sex. Oral-anal sex can result in the spread of bacteria such as E. Coli, giardia and hepatitis A and B through fecal matter passing from the person receiving oral sex to the person giving it.
These infections can lead to severe and even life-threatening complications if left untreated, so make sure you’re aware of the symptoms and take all the precautions you can when engaging in oral sex.
How does a dental dam protect against STIs?
When used correctly (covering the whole genital area for the whole time you’re giving or receiving oral sex), dental dams can reduce the risk of catching some of these infections during oral sex. They do this by creating a barrier between one person’s skin and another’s and reducing transfer of infected bodily fluids.
It’s important to remember that not all STIs will result in symptoms, so someone could be carrying a contagious infection without you or them realising it. That’s why it’s so important to use protection even if someone looks and feels normal.
Oral dams make skin-to-skin contact safer and they’re a simple and affordable way to avoid transmitting STIs. This means you can enjoy oral sex with less risk of catching an STI. Bear in mind though that dental dams don’t protect against all STIs, for example, public lice can still be spread if there’s any hair-to-hair contact beyond the area the dam is covering.
If you have any sores, cuts or infections in your mouth, it’s best to give performing oral sex a miss altogether to ensure the safety of your partner.
Other benefits of using a dental dam
As well as protecting against sexually transmitted infections, dental dams can be a fun and exciting way to experiment in the bedoom, especially if you buy one with flavouring or scent. You can make it part of the sexual experience and play with with different types or colours. Just keep it nearby so you can easily grab it without ruining the moment.
Trying something new is always exciting, and if you’ve never used one before an oral dam can provide a thrilling change from the norm.
Of course the sensation of using one may feel different to not using anything, but you might find that you or your partner actually prefer it and it stimulates you in a better way (especially if you use a water-based lubricant with it). Some people can find oral sex too sensitive, so reducing sensation slightly might be preferable.
In addition, dental dams make oral sex more hygenic, which is great if you’re the squemish type and don’t like the thought of touching or ingesting someone else’s bodily fluids. Another benefit of using them is they can help you or your partner get used to oral sex if you’re cautious about it or self-conscious about your genitals.
If your partner isn’t keen for whatever reason, make sure you explain to them how using a dental dam provides added protection from catching STIs. You could also give it to them to see and feel so they can get used to it before oral sex.
How do you use dental dams?
Oral dams are really easy to use. You simply roll the sheet out and place it over the anus or vulva during oral sex, stimulating your partner through the material. Use a dental dam the whole time you’re giving (or receiving) oral sex, not just for part of the session.
You or your partner may need to hold it in place until you’re finished to ensure it covers the whole genital or anal area the whole time you’re engaging in oral sex. Try not to stretch it during use as that could damage it and reduce its effectiveness, and don’t turn it over once it’s been put in place or reuse it on another body part - you could risk being exposed to the bodily fluids that can carry infection.
Dental dams should be disposed of in the correct way immediately after use (check the packet instructions) - never reuse them or you’ll increase the risk of catching an STI.
You might find it more comfortable or pleasurable to use a lubricant with the dental dam (place it on the side touching the skin), but make sure you choose a water-based rather than an oil-based one (oily lubricants can damage and reduce the effectiveness of barrier methods like these).
Make sure to store the dental dam correctly according to the packet instructions, and note the use-by date. If it gets damaged during oral sex, replace it with a new one straight away. It’s also a good idea to check a new oral dam for any signs of damage (like wrinkling or tears) before using it.
Another thing to note is that dams are not designed to prevent pregnancy and should not be used in place of a condom during penetrative sex or oral sex on a penis.
Where can I buy a dental dam?
It can be harder to find dental dams in a pharmacy or supermarket than it is to find condoms, so the easiest way to get hold of one is to buy it online.
You’ll have a range of options to choose from, including scented or unscented, flavoured or unflavoured (depending on yours and your partner’s preferences), and they usually come in multipacks making them good value for money.
At Condoms.uk you can choose from two different types of dental dams, including:
Comes in different multipack sizes and are plain and unscented if you prefer a more natural look and smell.
Includes a mixed box of four flavours and matching colours (Cola, Strawberry, Vanilla and Wildberry) to create a fun and sensual atmosphere during oral sex.
When buying dental dams online, look for evidence that they meet safety standards in your region, for example, by displaying the CE and BSI kitemark. This will help ensure they provide the best level of protection from STIs.
If you can’t buy dental dams online for any reason, you can make your own using a condom and cutting it into a square shape (after cutting off the ends). Just be careful when cutting to make sure you don’t damage it.
Use dental dams for safe and fun oral sex
Using a dental dam during oral sex will give you peace of mind that you’re protecting yourself and your partner from STIs as much as possible. Safety should always be top priority in a trusting and respectful relationship, and of course with someone you don’t know very well.
They can also add a fun and exciting element to your sex life if you’re open to experimenting and trying something new - you may even find you prefer the sensation of having a barrier there when receiving oral sex.
Dental dams are the best way to increase protection from catching STIs during oral sex, so why not embrace them and make them part of a fun and fulfilling sex life?