The Skinny on Dental Dams – Safer Cunnilingus

Researching Dental Dam Use – a He Said, She Said

What is a Dental Dam?

Originally invented in 1864 for the dental industry, this sheet of thick rubber was used during oral surgery to isolate an individual tooth. As awareness of STDs grew with the appearance of HIV and AIDS in the 1980’s, prophylactic use grew in popularity, and dental dams were considered a useful, but not pleasurable, method of disease prevention during cunnilingus. At that time, the dental dams available were made out of thick sheets of latex. According to anecdotal evidence, in 1994 some lesbians made a request of condom manufacturers for a better alternative, and the modern version of dental dams were born.

Everybody’s Eating Somebody

Lots of Americans, in every single age group, are having oral sex.This is according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior(NSSHB), conducted by a team of researchers at Indiana University at Bloomington in 2010. While percentages range according to stage of life (the survey interviewed almost 6,00 participants between 14 and 90) the majority of individuals, for example up to 78% of 30 -39 year olds, are giving and receiving oral sex.

While there has been a marked upswing in condom use during intercourse, prophylactic use during oral sex is fairly rare. The popularity of the dental dam has remained low; with sales at about 400,000 annually, as opposed to 450 million condoms sold. When Planned Parenthood in New York City began carrying them because of increased demand by women, they found that only 400 dams were actually taken in the course of a year compared to thousands of condoms.  A woman’s prison began carrying dental dams when a court ruling required condoms to be made available in men’s prison.  Only 4% of the population used them, and only a fraction of them were using them for their actual purpose. When questioned as to why dental dams aren’t more widely available, retailers claim they are responding to customer demands. Perhaps this is because there have only been few studies performed to back their effectiveness.

Isn’t Oral Sex Safe?

Although transmission rates are far less than for intercourse. STIs can be transmitted orally. The person most at risk is the one performing the deed. According to the Association for Sexual Health, Many STIs, including HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes 1 and 2 and syphilis, can be spread through oral sex. Data from sexual health clinics estimate 5 – 10% of gonorrhea cases are located in the throat, and 13.7% or syphilis cases can be attributed to oral sex.

Why Aren’t People Using Dental Dams?

The concerns appear to center around taste, loss of sensation and just plain ignorance of what and how they are used. Better education would seem to be the first answer. So without further delay, we here at Pleasure Evolution decided to take action and begin performing oral sex, for YOUR benefit.  That’s right. We are so concerned about safety and sex education, we took matters into our own hands and purchased dental dams to begin research into the use of them.

The Research Date

He Said…

So if you’ve read my other posts you know I’m a big fan of oral sex. Like many, I’d heard of dental dams, but never had the opportunity to  use them. Few stores carried them, and even then in only limited quantity.  So an internet search and purchase later, I’m ready to learn what it’s all about.

During oral, I find myself with my eyes closed and my ears covered half the time so touch, taste and smell are the big turn-ons during oral sex for me. Once made of rubber, but now available in both latex and polyurethane, dental dams are squares of material that can be placed over the vagina or anus to create a barrier during oral sex. Latex ones are cheaper and come in flavors. Our research began with a polyurethane dental dam from Hot Dam. They come in single packets inside little Ziploc bags and cost $20 for a 12 pack on amazon.  The dam itself doesn’t smell any different than the bag.  Before placing the square of plastic over Rebekah’s vagina, I liberally applied coconut oil as lube to her clitoris, vulva majora and minora, aka lips, and all around the introitus or “opening.” There is still no conclusive evidence about the effects of coconut oil on poly urethane, you can read  more HERE.

Once the vulva was well lubricated I put the square in place and set to “work.” My first reaction is to notice the loss of taste and texture. I’m literally licking plastic. Honestly, I start out disappointed as taste and texture are my favorite parts of oral.  I also noticed that I needed to alter my techniques greatly as the plastic was in danger of moving about as my nose and face would touch it.  I had to learn how to get my fingers to hold the dam in place so I could continue.

With reduced feeling on my part, I found myself asking for feedback from my partner more often.  I did have to apply slightly more pressure to create sensation, but didn’t find it hindered me too much.  Once I got going, it wasn’t too much different, though the sound of the plastic dam crinkling was a mild distraction.  I did find a couple of advantages though.  The first being, the dam blocked hair. Both her pubic hair from getting in my throat and choking me as well as my moustache and beard hair from tickling or poking her.  So that’s a win.  Since the lube was on the other side of the dam, I wasn’t lapping it up, requiring no reapplication.

Overall it wasn’t unpleasant, but it did take away some of the enjoyment on my part.  However, my partner seemed to enjoy herself and the dam provides a way to perform oral sex while still being safe.

She Said…

I know someone who got genital herpes from receiving oral sex, so I am a fan of safe sex practices. The best sex happens when you have nothing to fear. We prepped the room with a towel on the bed, which turned out to be useful, because using a dental dam means there is no place for the licker’s saliva to go. Usually, some of it gets absorbed by the vulva. Having the coconut oil rubbed delicately all over my vulva was a nice warm-up, so I was already fairly turned on before we began. We probably should have tried the application of tongue without lube, to have something to compare it to. The feeling of being licked was not diminished at all for me. There was plenty of sensation to be had. In fact, if there was a slight dampening of sensation, it was helpful, because I sometimes find oral sex too stimulating. Once brought to orgasm that way, I tend to get ticklish. I like to take my time and enjoy the ride. Can I get an amen, Sisters? The dental dam didn’t interfere with my pleasurable feelings, leading to a high orgasmic peak,what most people would call coming.

On the downside, because Trevor’s hands were occupied holding the dam in place, he did not use them for penetration or stimulation. I also found myself describing when I was getting wetter, which in some ways was distracting and in others made it more fun because I was noticing and naming the pleasure. I could feel the warmth of his breath, but not the sensation of it, which I missed. I probably wouldn’t choose to use this with a regular partner that I knew, but I would certainly use it with anyone I knew had a diagnosis, or that I felt uncertain about their sexual history. If you refrain from giving or receiving cunnilingus because smell or taste is a concern for you dental dams are definitely advantageous.

In Conclusion

While the  facts about transmission and effectiveness are still hazy, I doubt anyone could argue that being safer is important.  All things considered, the dental dam we tried did allow for pleasurable and orgasmic oral sex while diminishing the fears and risks regarding STI’s.  Next up, we’ll be trying out saran wrap. Why not do some research for yourself?



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