By Madeleine Castellanos, M.D.
For safe oral sex, the off-label use of dental dams was the gold standard for a long time. A dental dam is a rectangular piece of thin latex that dentists use during dental procedures to have their work nice and neat. It prevents bacteria or viruses from the patient infecting the dentist, as well as prevents debris from falling back into the patient's mouth, and it creates a barrier that is easily folded up after the procedure is complete. This has been very cleverly translated into use for oral sex by providing a barrier that prevents passage of bacteria or viruses, but is thin and flexible enough to allow for a good amount of stimulation.
Since this was so brilliant, the sex dam was created. This is also a rectangular piece of latex, but is especially thin and usually transparent or translucent. Both of these qualities enhance the experience for both the giver and the receiver, which is the whole point, isn't it? Sex dams are also a little longer than dental dams, so they can cover more area - such as the entire vulva and anus - at the same time.
To use either one, you simply unfold it completely and place it over the area you wish to devour. You will find that if you use some water-based lubricant on the receiving side, the feeling is more realistic and intense for them. Although some people recommend lube on both sides, I always felt that saliva in my mouth was more appealing than lube, but the choice is yours. It is important to keep the dental dam from sliding around too much, and this can be done by using your hands to hold each side of the dam against the tops of the thighs or the buttocks. This allows you to explore the area completely with your tongue and lips, but not having actual contact with bodily fluids or tissues that could carry the risk of infection. Remember that since the dental dams are made of latex, you should only use water-based lubricants since any others would cause a breakdown of the latex, similar to condoms.
Speaking of condoms, what to do if you don't have a dental dam? Another popular trick is to use a latex condom and just cut it to size. In order to do this, you first completely unroll the condom. Next, you cut off the rounded tip. Lastly, you cut it lengthwise down the shaft and you are left with a latex rectangle. It is a little smaller size than a dental dam, but it does the trick. It works best if you use plain condoms that do not already have lube or spermicide on them so as not to gunk up your scissors. You can always add your water-based lube after you're done cutting. If you're really in a jam, you can also use a latex glove by cutting straight across just below the fingers (except the thumb), then open it by cutting straight up on the opposite side to the thumb. Some find this variation useful in that they can stick their tongue in the thumb opening for greater range of motion. You can also use the left-over fingers for anal play.
There is also the happy-housewife substitute for the dental dam: plastic wrap. Yes that familiar transparent wrap that you might be tempted to dress yourself in and surprise your partner with when they come home. But if you want to use plastic wrap, you do have to be a little cautious. You need to ensure that you have the NON-Microwavable type because this type is non-porous. The microwavable type is too porous and lets in bacteria and viruses, therefore defeating the purpose of using it in the first place.
Most sex shops and sites sell sex dams and dental dams. You can also buy dental dams from dental supply stores or sites. Dental dams come in different thicknesses, from thin (0.125mm) to extra heavy (0.5mm). They even come flavored too!
For those people with latex allergies, there are dental dams available that are made of silicone as well. There are a lot to choose from, so no excuses. Be prepared, and enjoy safe oral sex.