Skip navigation and jump to content
Welcome to Ireland's Youth Information Website
Follow us
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Snapchat

Accessibility Options

High Contrast Text Size

How to use a dental dam

Here's how to protect yourself against STIs during vaginal-oral and oral-anal sex


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


Share this article -

Dental dams are used to protect against the transfer of STIs during oral-vaginal sex and oral-anal sex (rimming). The safest way to have oral sex is to keep your partner’s skin and body fluids (vaginal secretions, saliva, blood, semen, urine, feces) away from your mouth by using a dam that is the right size for the area.

Who could benefit from using a dental dam?

Anyone who has oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex. This means oral sex that is performed on a vagina or an anus. If you want to give or receive oral sex always use a barrier in the form of a dam or a condom.

Dental dams when used correctly during oral vaginal or oral anal sex (rimming) help reduce the risk of catching or spreading STIs such as herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis, HIV or parasites.

How the dental dam works

Oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex involves skin-to-skin contact, such as using your mouth to lick or suck (‘going down’ or ‘giving head’) on your partner's labia, vagina, or anus (‘rimming’).

  • Start off with checking the expiry date
  • Open the dam and put a few drops of water-based lube on one side of it to hold it in place and increase sensitivity
  • Place the dam over the vagina or anus (the side of the dam with lube on it should be facing down)
  • Proceed with oral sex as normal, licking one side only - never flip it over and use the other side
  • Once you’re done, dispose of and never re-use

Staying safe

Sexually transmitted infections can be present without any symptoms. Anyone who has ever had oral, vaginal or anal sexual contact may have unknowingly been exposed to STIs.

Blisters and cold sores in or around the mouth are caused by the herpes virus and can be transmitted to the genital tissue during oral sexual contact even when no symptoms are present. Many people do not know that they carry this virus in their system. Avoiding any sexual contact completely is recommended when a person has active blisters or sores in or around the mouth.

How to make a dental dam

You can easily make your own dental dam that is just as effective as a store-bought one. All you need is a condom, a scissors, and half a minute.

  • Make sure the condom is in date and has a CE Kite mark on it
  • Take the condom out of the pack and unroll it
  • Cut off the tip and the base
  • Cut down the length of it on one side
  • Unroll it into a rectangular sheet
  • Use it in the exact same way as described above

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

Share this article -

Published October 22nd, 2014
Last updated July 26th, 2018
Tags sexual health sexually transmitted infections sex
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

Youth Work Ireland - Crosscare - YMCA

Contact via: Phone E-mail Text
By clicking submit you agree to our terms and conditions. ​Please note that this service is run by Youth Work Ireland and Crosscare​.​ E​nquiries are not handled by SpunOut.ie directly.
Jump to related articles
Was this article helpful?