Good sexual health depends on regular check-ups and having safer sex.
You can get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from all types of sex, including oral and anal sex, or through intimate skin-to-skin contact and mutual masturbation too.
Dams (sometimes known as dental dams), are a latex sheet that can be used for oral sex on a vagina or anus to protect against STIs.
What is a dam?
Dams are a thin and flexible piece of latex, originally used in dentistry to provide protection against bacteria in the mouth, which is why they are also known as dental dams. However, a dam is also a great form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during oral sex.
Where can I get dams from?
Dams are not expensive but can be hard to find at the shops, so it’s worth knowing that you can buy them online or you may be able to get them for free at your local sexual health clinic, or from our Sexual Health Prevention Team. Contact your local service to see if they have free dams available.
As with condoms, dams come in a variety of flavours that can help to add to the fun. Remember to be aware of any allergies to latex before using a dam.
How do you use a dam?
Firstly, check the expiration date before using.
The dam should be carefully removed from its wrapper, checking for any tears or defects. It should be placed flat over the vaginal area (vulva) or anus to act as a barrier between the mouth and the genitals. If during oral sex the dam either slips or tears, you should stop immediately and replace it with a new one.
It is important to remember to only use one side of the barrier against the skin; don’t flip it around and use the other side.
As with condoms, dams are single use only and should be wrapped in tissue and disposed of in a bin after use, and not flushed down the toilet.
Dams are super thin latex so should not affect the feeling of oral sex, or ruin the mood!
Why use dams?
As with other types of sex, there is a risk of sexually transmitted infections, so using a dam can help prevent any risk.
Dams help to reduce the risk of common STIs such as:
- Plus other infections such as genital warts (HPV), pubic lice, scabies and herpes
Dos and don’ts when using dams
- DO read the packaging and check the expiration date before use.
- DO make sure to check there are no tears or defects.
- DO use a new dam every time you have oral sex.
- DO make sure to place the dam before starting oral sex and keep it on until finished.
- DO use water-based lube if you need to.
- DO wrap it in tissue and dispose of it in the bin.
- DON’T re-use a dam.
- DON’T flip it over to use the other side once one side has been used.
- DON’T over-stretch a dam.
- DON’T use oil-based lubes as it can weaken the latex.
- DON’T flush dams down the toilet.
Don’t forget about consent!
As with all sexual experiences, consent must be given each and every time. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with.
Consent means giving your permission for something to happen, and it is ok to withdraw consent if you change your mind.
Getting consent doesn’t need to ruin the mood; there are ways to make sure you are getting consent while keeping things sexy. Remember to ask in a way which lets them know it’s okay if they say no, or want you to stop doing something; and make sure they are saying yes enthusiastically!
To read more about consent head over to our blog 10 things you need to know about consent.
If you’ve had unprotected sex or are worried you might have an STI, you can book a sexual health check-up at one of our clinics, or order a free at home testing kit.