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Her Campus / Addie Abujade
Sex + Relationships

So Like, Can We Please Talk About Dental Dams?

Here's the thing you guys: I've been wanting to yell about dental dams and why no one knows what they are for like, years. So I'm making my own dream come true. We're talking about them. Right now.

A part of the reason no one uses dental dams is that many people assume that oral sex isn't "real sex." Which, first off, isn't true. There are many couples whose entire sex life is built on oral sex (because, yes, it can be that good), and the idea that oral sex isn't real sex tends to stem from the idea that the only real sex is PIV, or penis-in-vagina sex. Like, come on. Aren't we beyond that? Sex is so broad and fun and exciting and if you're only having one type of sex because it's the norm, let's switch it up, shall we?

Another reason people don't use dental dams is that, tbh, they really don't feel that sexy. The name, first of all, sucks. Condoms at least feel more neutral, but dental dams sound so medical (which is because they actually are. Fun fact: dentists use them, hence the gross name.) and not at all intimate.

Probably one of the main reason that people don't use dental dams, is that they tend not to be readily available. While you can get them in many college health centers, your average drugstore isn't going to have them.

And, of course, that they don't know WTF a dental dam is.

Here's what you said when I asked, "Do you know what dental dams are, and have you used them before?"

No and no. - Shelby

I have no idea what it is or how to use it. - Alexis*

I don't know what that is? - Sarah

A dental dam is a condom for females. I've never used one. - Jessica

Yeah but never knew where to find them so I never used them. - Yuki

I don't even know what these are or how to use them. - Callie

But let's back it up: what is a dental dam?

A dental dam is essentially a thin sheet of latex (though some are latex free!) that you use as a barrier between you and your partner or partners. It's basically a condom, but square, and they work best for oral sex on vaginas or rimming (known in 2018 as eating ass, you're welcome). You open the package carefully, just like you would a condom, and then you place it on top of whatever you're going to be licking. Then, you get to it, making sure to keep the sheet in place.

Once you're done, throw it out. Don't re-use them, don't wash and re-use them, get a new one. Don't be cheap, this is your health at stake, thanks. 

Is it awk to talk to your partner about dental dams, and how can you make it, like, not be?

According to Sylvia Smith, Relationship Expert at Marriage.com, even couples who are killer at open and honest communication might still find it hard to talk about adding new safer sex practices into their lives. "While you may take pride in the kind of communication equation you share with your partner, proposing the idea of using a dental dam [may] not be easy. One way you can make your partner open up to this idea is by explaining to them that it does not take away the pleasure of oral sex."

How can you make dental dams suck less?

Dental dams are weird. Let's just admit it. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it.

Want to make them feel better on your bod? Smith has some ideas. "By adding some water or silicone based lubricant on the vulva side of the dental dam, the sensations that the oral sex recipient experiences will definitely intensify," Smith explains. "The barrier will not make it any less pleasurable, instead, it will just reduce the risk of STDs which might just propel your partner to engage in more oral sex!"

Cheers to that. 

How do I actually get my hands on a dental dam?

As I mentioned, many drugstores don't carry dental dams. It sucks. But, there are a few ways you can get access to them. The first is shopping online. Many online sex stores have them, including Lovehoney. The second is making a DIY dental dam out of a condom. This is actually super simple. Find a non-lubed condom. Flavored is best if you want some ~pizzazz~. Just open the package like you normally would, and then cut the condom from the rim to the tip in a straight line. You'll end up with a giant plastic-y rectangle, and you can use it just like you would a dental dam. 

The main reason I wanted to talk about dental dams is to encourage all of us to have safer sex, regardless of your sexuality. Give them a try. Open one up and just play with it and see how it feels, or try it out with a partner. Normalize carrying one around or having a stash of dental dams just like you would condoms. Because not everything is about penises. 

Rachel is the Senior Editor at Her Campus. She graduated from Elon University in 2015 where she wrote for Her Campus's Elon chapter as well as the national LGBTQ+ section, and has since held editorial positions at Hello Giggles and Brit + Co along with running social media for several publishers. Her work has been published in Teen Vogue, Glamour, StyleCaster, and SELF, and she can be found in North Carolina smearing face masks on in the name of content. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @RachelCharleneL.
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