Most people are familiar with dental dams from visits to their dentists, where they are primarily used to prevent saliva from getting in the way (as well as prevent contamination of oral micro-organisms during root canals as well as keep fill composite dry during placement of fillings), Yet the latex sheets have found additional use as shields against sexually transmitted diseases by those who practice cunnilingus and analingus.
Cunnilingus is an oral sex act performed on female genitalia, while an analingus is the oral act used to stimulate the anus using lips, tongue, and/or teeth. Also, know as a “rim job” gay men often use the latter, although those of varied sexual orientation have been known to perform it as both an act of pleasure as well as (erotic) humiliation on others.
Basically, the dental dam is first treated with a water-based lubricant and then placed (unpunctured) over the vulva or anus to prevent the transmission of bodily fluids during stimulation, thus reducing the risk of spreading diseases such as chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, as well as several strains of hepatitis and HIV.
In the meantime, it should be noted that the risks of STD infection are generally thought to be significantly lower for oral sex than for vaginal or anal penetration. Likewise, it has been stated by researchers that cunnilingus poses less of a danger for spreading HIV transmission than fellatio (a blow job performed on male genitals).
It is important to note that the risk of spreading STDs between partners during oral sex is increased greatly if there are wounds or sores on the genitals of the “receiving” partner or if the person performing the act has wounds or open sores on his or her mouth, as well as bleeding gums.
Additionally, health experts also warn that the underside of the tongue is particularly vulnerable to ulceration by repeated friction during sexual activity. While these types of lesions usually heal within 7-10 days, repeated oral sex acts can result in chronic ulceration leading to linear fibrous hyperplasia (gross enlargement of the organ). They also warn “brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work soon before or after performing cunnilingus can increase the risk of transmission as well.
Meanwhile, researchers conducting separate studies at Johns Hopkins University as well as Malmo University Faculty of Odontology in Sweden found a possible connection between throat cancer and oral sex, most likely due to the transmission of HPV. Although generally associated with cervical cancer, the human papilloma virus has been detected in throat cancer tissue in numerous studies. In fact, researchers involved in the project concluded that that person who had multiple oral sex partners in their lifetime had a “250% greater risk of throat cancer compared with those who never participated in oral sex
Note: People allergic to latex are not suitable candidates for use of dental dams as they may not only experience allergic contact dermatitis, allergic contact cheilitis, allergic contact stomatitis or even life-threatening anaphylaxis. However, it may be possible for them to substitute regular dams with nitrile versions.