So, what is a dam?

3 April 2015

Dental dams, or dams as they’re more commonly known, were, as the name suggests, originally designed for use by dentists.

Then somebody realised that these small, soft plastic squares are also a great way to stop sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from being passed on during oral sex.

While you might be up to speed on using condoms to help protect yourself against STIs, maybe you’re not quite sure how a dam can be used to enjoy safer oral sex, or you might not have heard of them at all.

Simply, a dam is a latex or polyurethane (soft plastic) square, about 15cm by 15cm, which you can use to cover the female genitals or the anus during oral sex.

They come in a variety of sizes and flavours - so you can find a dam that satisfies your tastes. It can sound a bit odd if you’ve not used one before, but they’re very easy to use.

How to use a dam

  • Cover the genital area (vulva) or anus with the dam before there is any contact with the mouth.
  • Hold it in place during oral sex.
  • It doesn’t matter which side of the dam you put against the vulva or anus, but don’t turn it over once you’ve started using it.
  • Don’t move a dam from the anus to the vulva because bacteria that are harmless in the anus can cause infection in the vagina.
  • Avoid using oil-based lubricants with latex dams as this can damage them. Water-based lubes are safe to use.
  • Polyurethane dams can be used with both oil-based and water-based lubricants.
  • Use a new dam each time you have oral sex. Never re-use a dam.
  • Dams cannot be used for penetrative sex.
  • If you don’t have a dam to hand, you can make one out of a condom. Roll it out, cut the closed end off and open it out to a rectangle shape.

Why is it important to use a dam during oral sex?

It’s really difficult to say exactly how safe oral sex is, as it can be hard to find out exactly how a sexually transmitted infection was passed on. But we know that some infections are spread more easily through oral sex than others.

The STIs most commonly passed on through oral sex are Herpes simplex, gonorrhoea and syphilis. It’s also possible for HIV to be transmitted during oral sex, although the risk is much less than with vaginal or anal sex.

Dams are a great way to enjoy oral sex while minimising the risk of passing on or getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) so give them a go.