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What the Heck Is A Dental Dam? written by: dstrickland If you didn't have comprehensive sex education, you've probably never heard of a dental dam. If you did have access to more sex-positive resources for education, you may have heard or read the words "dental dam" before. It doesn't really matter what kind of sex-ed experience you had, though, you've probably never even seen a dental dam, much less used one. They aren't usually grouped with condoms and other contraceptive and STI prevention products at the drugstore even though they can be an important way of limiting the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Often people who want dental dams for safer sex have to find them from medical suppliers or websites with a more comprehensive selection of STI prevention tools.
Wait...What Is A Dental Dam Again?
Dental dams are squares of thin latex. They are called "dental dams" both because they are primarily used for oral sex and because they were first created to make a sterile barrier between the inside of a patient's mouth and a dentist doing work on the patient's teeth. If no specially-designed dental dam is available and the only other choice is no protection for oral sex, a dental dam may be improvised by cutting open a latex condom or latex glove. This is not ideal, since neither one is specifically designed, in shape and size, for oral sex. It is also possible to use non-microwaveable plastic wrap as a barrier, but there have been no studies on how effective it is at preventing viral infections like HIV. A dental dam designed for oral sex is the safest bet for your health and enjoyment.
How Do I Use A Dental Dam?
Dental dams prevent the spread of STIs when performing cunnilingus (contact between the tongue and mouth and the vulva) and anilingus (contact between the tongue and mouth and the anus) by creating a barrier between the partner performing and the one receiving. Dental dams are particularly effective because they cover the skin around the area and many STIs are the result of skin-to-skin contact rather than penetration. To use a dental dam, spread it over the part of your partner's body that you're going to lick. The dam is thin and, unlike a condom, doesn't wrap tightly around the area it is protecting so it may move around as you and your partner really have fun with oral sex. That means the edges must be held in place by either partner to keep the dam where it's supposed to be.
What Sexually Transmitted Infections Do Dental Dams Help Prevent?
Like their cousin, the condom, dental dams used correctly protect from infections like HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. Because they cover the whole area where skin-to-skin contact may take place, they are also helpful for preventing HPV and herpes infections. In anilingus, using a dental dam eliminates the risk of passing bacteria like E. coli. from one partner's anus to the mouth of the other.
So, Why Don't More People Use Dental Dams?
A 2010 Australian academic survey found that only 9.7 percent of women who had sex with women had used a dental dam at all on only 2.1% used them often. If they're so effective, why don't more people use them?
* Dental dams can be difficult to find. Most drug stores don't carry them at all.
* People believe STIs can't be passed through oral sex.
* Dental dams reduce the sensation of oral sex for the partner receiving. (This is easily helped by applying a few drops of lube like astroglide diamond silicone gel lubricant to the inside of the dam. The increased wetness not only helps how it feels, it also helps the dam stay in place.)
* Dental dams taste like latex. (Another easy fix - dental dams designed specifically for oral sex come in a variety of pleasing colors and flavors.
* Latex dental dams irritate people with latex allergies.
One of the biggest reasons people give for not using a dental dam is not knowing how to use them in the first place. Dental dams don't have to be scary or inconvenient. On the contrary, the latex provides a very different sensation during oral sex for both partners and can be seen as a fun, safe way to add variety to your sex life. Now that you know what a dental dam is, after all, why not give it a try?