What Is Dental Dam Used For?

Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2022
Dental Dam
Dental dams can effectively stop fluid exchange during oral sex.

Dental dams are used to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. They can also be used for hygiene purposes or if someone feels uneasy making direct mouth-to-genital or anal contact.

Dental dams are tiny, delicate square pieces of latex or polyurethane used for oral intercourse that involves contact between the mouth and genitals or the mouth and anus. They come in a range of flavors and sizes.

What is a dental dam?

A dental dam is a thin, flexible piece of latex or polyurethane that you can use as protection during oral intercourse. A dental dam can reduce the risk of distributing bodily fluids that could carry sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it cannot be used as a contraceptive (birth control).

Many people use condoms to protect themselves against STIs. Mouth-to-penis intercourse can be protected with a condom, whereas mouth-to-vagina sex or mouth-to-anus sex can be shielded with a dental dam.

To prevent your partner's mouth from touching your genitals or anus, you place a dental dam over your vagina or anus. By doing this, you can protect yourself while still receiving clitoral or anal stimulation.

How do I use a dental dam?

The use of dental dams is simple. However, to avoid ripping or damaging it, dental dams must be applied gently.

Using a dental dam correctly entails the following steps:

  • Use a fresh dental dam for every sexual activity; for example, if you just had anal/oral sex, get a fresh one before having vaginal/oral sex. Germs can be moved from one body part to another.
  • Use the dental dam just on one side; do not turn it over. You should never use the same dental dam two times.
  • Check for any tears or perforations in the dental dam. You can examine the dental dam by holding it in front of a light source or by checking to see whether any water can pass through it.
  • You should use water to remove the cornstarch from the dental dam (starch in the vagina can lead to an infection).
  • Avoid using lotions, Vaseline, petroleum jelly, baby oil, and other oil-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants have the potential to degrade the dental dam's components, leading to leaks or tears.
  • While having oral sex, place the dental dam over the vagina or anus. Make sure the dental dam is secure.
  • Store the dental dam out of the direct sun in a cool, dry place. Heat and sunlight can degrade latex, which could lead to the dental dam rupturing.
  • If the dental dam leaks or ruptures, stop having oral sex. Before continuing, cover your vagina or anus with a fresh dental dam.
  • After using the dental dam, throw it away.


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How to make your dental dam

If you don't have a dental dam on hand, you can make one out of an unlubricated or flavored male condom.

Here’s how you can transform it into a dental dam:

  • The condom's top and bottom should be cut off.
  • Make a flat sheet by cutting down one side.
  • Use it in the same manner as a dental dam.

A latex glove can also be used as protection:

  • Cut the base and fingers off.
  • Make the glove flat by trimming off one side.

If you don't have a condom or a latex glove, plastic wrap can also be useful. However, there is no study on how well it prevents sexually transmitted diseases. Check to see if the plastic is unbroken.

What are the dos and don’ts of dental dams?


  • Use a new dental dam each time you have oral sex.
  • Always look for the expiration date on a dental dam package.
  • Check that a dental dam doesn't have any rips or tears.
  • Always maintain a dental dam in place.
  • Do use water or silicone-based lubricants between a dental dam and your skin.
  • Dental dams must be kept in a dry, cool environment.
  • When you're finished using a dental dam, dispose of it off in a trash container.


  • Avoid using a dental dam more than once. This also applies to using a used dental dam's reverse side.
  • Never try to stretch a dental dam. It could tear.
  • Spermicide shouldn't be used with the dental dam because it can irritate.
  • Avoid using oil-based lubricants when using a dental dam. These can cause dental dams to break.
  • A dental dam should not be flushed down the toilet. It might clog up the toilet.

What do dental dams guard against?

A dental dam prevents the direct contact of your mouth with your partner's genitals and bodily fluids.

When used properly, it can reduce your risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as:

What is not protected by dental dams?

Dental dams are an effective way to stop fluid exchange during oral sex. However, they cannot stop you from spreading infections that you might acquire through skin-to-skin contact.

A dental dam won't shield you from the following sexually transmitted infections:

Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2022
Image Source: Getty image