The idea for this blog post came to me quite late one evening. I had a moment when I realise I’d never seen a review of dental dams.
I’ve seen a few sex bloggers review external condoms, which I do use, but I use dental dams far more frequently than I use external condoms. Having reviews of dental dams to refer to is something I could have definitely used, and there is nothing that motivates me to make something more than having not being able to access it when I needed it.
Originally, I was just going to review dental dams. And I will review a few specific brands in the future. But when looking for a list of brands to review, I realise that there are very few dental dam brands out there, the majority are only available online, and most of the good ones seem to be in the habit of being discontinued. In practice, I’ve often turned condoms into dental dams, so this post spiralled into a list of condoms that are good for this, until I finally decided to turn it into one huge guide to dental dams. Which is what it is now.
So what are dental dams?
Dental dams are sheets that are used during oral sex to protect from the transmission of STIs. They can be used during cunnilingus (mouth to vulva), or anilingus (mouth to anus). Examples of infections they can prevent are HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HPV. For anilingus, they are useful at preventing e-coli infections.
If you’re wondering why the name sounds vaguely clinical, it’s because dental dams were originally sheets of latex used in dental procedures to isolate the tooth being worked on. Clinical dental dams are usable for this purpose (and, wildly, seem more accessible than dental dams for sex), but they have thicker latex than dental dams intended for sex.
Who Can Use Dental Dams?
In a word, everybody!
Cisgender heterosexual people, LGB+ people, trans people, everybody! Everybody and anybody can use dental dams. While my experience with dental dams mostly comes from being a trans man who primarily has sex with other trans men, the information and advice in this post applies to everyone.
Anybody who has or is interested in having oral sex involving vulvas, with partners they are not and do not want to be fluid bonded with should use a dental dam.
While some people argue you can make anilingus safe through washing, there’s no conclusive evidence or research either way. Dental dams are the best way to protect yourself, and I personally do not engage in any anilingus without a dam.
How To Use A Dental Dam
If using a dental dam, after checking the date and removing it from its packet, you will likely need to rinse off some powder. Use this time to check that it doesn’t have any holes in it.
You can wet the vulva or anal area with lube to prevent the dam from slipping off, but make sure you only use silicone or water based lubes, as oil based lubes will damage latex barriers. Place the dam over the vulva or anal area before contact.
Remember not to turn the dam over- only one side should be in contact with your mouth. Some people remember which side is which by marking one with an x.
My personal tip is not to pull the dam tight. This seems counterintuitive, but licking somebody through tight latex feels quite medical and distant, and not quite passionate sex. I tend to hold dams loosely over my partners’ anal or vulva areas, so that it covers them, but isn’t pulled tight. This also can prevent the dam from tearing, which can happen if a dam is stretched.
Only use a dental dam once. After use, dispose of it. Do not flip the dam over, and if you move from vulva to anus or anus to vulva, use a new dental dam.
Calling this ‘recommendations’ is pushing it to be honest. This is more a list of dental dams that you can buy at all. Dams are much less widely used than condoms, so they are produced less and harder to find.
Pasante have the most easily and widely accessible (in my experience) dams, but they are flavoured. There is a variety of flavours, so you can probably find one you can put up with even if you don’t like it, but that is something to be aware of.
Pasante also did produce some non-latex dental dams that were unflavoured. These have been discontinued, but you can likely find a few more for sale somewhere on the internet. I’ve found one place selling them.
The only other brands I can find available are Line One, and Sheer Glyde. Both of these are flavoured only. However, the Sheer Glyde scents/flavours are very dull, so they’re pretty close to unflavoured. If you have a perfume allergy I’d suggest those are the ones you go for (especially the vanilla one, as that’s particularly weak).
The Condom Method
If a dental dam isn’t accessible to you, you can also make one out of an unlubricated external condom. This will be smaller than a specifically made dental dam, but it will still work.
You need to unroll a condom, and cut the tip off of it. Then you need to cut the ‘ring’ off the bottom of the condom, and then cut down one side of the condom. If you lay this flat, it will make a rectangle that you can then use as a dental dam. A full picture guide can be found on the CDC website. (I’d demonstrate the whole process but I can’t cut a non-jagged edge to save my life.)
You can also make a dental dam out of an internal (sometimes called ‘female’) condom using a similar method. You cut off the ring, then cut down one side. This makes a rectangle.
You can technically used flavoured condoms, but I personally do not like to do so. If you are gong to use flavoured condoms, be careful that they doesn’t go inside your partner.
For general unlubricated condoms, I’ve got away with using pretty generic condoms. Because I’m not putting them on a penis, feel or fit don’t really matter. That said, I’ve found LifeStyles Non Lubricated Condoms (US link) work really well in terms of material thickness.
If you’re vegan, French Letter make fair trade, unlubricated vegan condoms. Sadly, these are the only unlubricated vegan condoms I currently know of. If you’re aware of other brands or manufacturers, please mention them in the comments below.
You’ll notice that I don’t have any suggestions for non latex condoms. And that’s because finding unlubricated non latex condoms is really hard. If you find any please feel free to mention them in the comments below. However there is a workaround. And it involves gloves.
Dental Dams from Nitrile Gloves
You can make a dental dam from nitrile gloves. The same method also applies to latex gloves, but as there are other options for those not allergic to latex (see above), this is more valuable to those who are.
Gloves are fantastic and important for safe sex in general, and I’d recommend people have them. I use them for vaginal fingering with partners I’m not fluid bonded, and also use them for anal fingering (both with partners and by myself) because they make cleanup so much easier. If you have long fingernails and want to vaginally or anally finger a partner, gloves can also be useful- putting a cotton ball in the fingertips of a glove can make it comfortable and non-painful to be fingered by a partner with long nails.
There are two ways to turn a glove into a dental dam. The first method creates a dam with handles, while the second creates a dam that also facilitates safer digital or tongue insertion.
Take a glove, and cut the middle three fingers off of it.
Then cut down the middle of the glove, from the wrist to where the middle finger used to be.
This creates a square with two fingers, which you can insert thumbs into to make the dam more easy to hold in place.
Take a glove, and cut all the fingers off, leaving the thumb.
Slit the glove along the fold line furthest away from the glove.
This creates a square with a thumb. The thumb can be used as a way to insert a finger or tongue into your partner without compromising a barrier between you and their external vulva or anal area.
If you have any other dental dam brand recommendations or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! No affiliate links were used in this post, and all products displayed are ones I purchased with my own money and use personally.