Sex workers are the original sexperts… and, for many, an excellent source of information on the skills involved in intimacy. There are some sex skills that are top-notch but not often discussed – and this is the stuff where sex workers excel, because we’re the ones who practice these skills every day. 

One great example is the dental dam – an oft-maligned tool that can be incredibly useful in a whole load of sticky situations, if you know how to use them correctly! Although dental dams aren’t often discussed in sex-ed classes, or used by civilians, they’re very useful for anyone who cares about safer sex and wants to use all the equipment available to ensure peace of mind, while still keeping things sexy.

Here’s a quick run-down on how to use dental dams during an encounter with a provider… or, indeed, with anyone.

“What is a dental dam?”

A dental dam is a square piece of stretchy latex or a similar rubbery material. They're typically used as a barrier between the mouth and vulva for cunnilingus (eating pussy), or the mouth and the anus for analingus (rimming).

Dental dams serve the same purpose for oral sex and rimming as condoms do for fellatio (sucking dick) and intercourse: they help reduce the risk of STI transmission during sexytime. And I know some of you might be thinking, ‘Wait, aren’t STIs only a thing to worry about when you’re actually fucking?’ But in actual fact, there are many, many kinds of STIs that can be passed from one person to another just by giving or receiving head, for example. As a friend of mine likes to say, “any time your sticky bits come in contact with anyone else’s sticky bits, you need to be careful”. Even mouth contact with areas around the genitals, such as the balls or perineum, can be risky for STIs such as herpes and genital warts.

Everyone has different safer sex standards, and some folks don’t consider oral sex or rimming to be enough of an STI risk to bother with safer sex equipment. Sex workers tend to be more educated and conscious of these practices, which is why you’re much more likely to have a provider pull out a dental dam on the job than you are to see one on a date with a civilian. Despite the fact that they’re not widely used by the general population, dental dams are really just like the condom – a simple way to help safeguard against unwanted health issues. 

It’s not just about butts and vulvas – the square shape of the dental dam means it’s very adaptable. I recently spent time with a client who loves ball-biting, but I wasn’t keen to chomp down too hard in case I drew blood – another STI risk. Using a dental dam between my mouth and his scrotum meant I could munch away with much more pressure than I would have been comfortable applying otherwise. 

“Do sex workers always supply dental dams?”

Many full-service sex workers bring dental dams along to their bookings, but you can’t assume. We all have different safer sex standards, and the equipment we provide also depends on the services you’ve discussed in advance as well as the activities your provider is comfortable with.

If it’s safe to talk about sex before you meet your worker, you might want to ask whether they carry dams with them. Regardless of whether they do or don’t, they’ll probably be impressed you know about dental dams at all! It could also be useful to specify the sexual activity you were hoping to use a dam for – cunnilingus versus rimming, for example – to prevent any misunderstandings.

If your local laws and/or customs mean you can’t have an explicit discussion about sex beforehand, it’s a “wait and see” situation. Once you’re getting intimate together, you can ask, “Do you have a dental dam I could use for going down on you?” If the answer is no, and one or both of you isn’t comfortable with non-barrier oral sex, then you’ll need to avoid that activity and find something else fun to do instead.

Of course, the smart thing to do – if you can’t ask beforehand – is to buy and bring your own. Dental dams can be ordered online from many condom and adult stores.

“Isn’t it awkward?”

One of the main arguments against using dentals dams is that they’re awkward to use and might ruin the mood. But they’re really just another kind of barrier method, the same as condoms. The biggest issue around using a dental dam is knowing how to use one, and knowing how to have the conversation beforehand. 

Personally, I think that even an awkward conversation is much better than worrying about STIs while trying to enjoy myself during a date. I use dental dams for cunnilingus (and ball-biting, as discussed earlier). I’ve never had anyone object, as long as I took the time to patiently explain what a dental dam is and how it works. 

Once you’ve had a bit of practice, using a dental dam can be almost as easy as applying a condom. You simply open the packet it comes in, spread it out over the area you’re about to pay some attention to, and hold it in place with one or both hands.

I once gave a demonstration of dental dam use at a sex party completely one-handed… while attending to my lady companion on the couch with the left hand, I used the right to feel around in my bag, take out the packet, get it open, and whisk the thin sheet of rubber out. When I laid it down over her pussy without breaking eye contact with her, the crowd went, “ooooh” and it was a very satisfying moment!

These skills aren’t automatic. They come from trying things over time, and figuring out what works. If you’re spending time with an understanding companion, they may well be thrilled to help you practice. 

An escort’s pro tips for dental dam success

Here are a few of my strategies for effective dental dam use.

  • Keep them close to hand. It can definitely be awkward, right at the moment of going down on someone, to have to get up and sprint across the room to rummage through your bag! If you’re supplying the dams, make sure they’re close by. Explaining to your companion that you’ve brought them will be appreciated. Likewise, if you’d like to use the ones your provider has supplied, let them know so that they can ensure they have some nearby once you start getting intimate.
  • Don’t make a big deal out of it. This is the golden rule for anything relating to sex: it’s only awkward if you make it awkward! Safer sex is just one of those things we do to take care of ourselves and ensure we’re able to relax during sex. If you can be matter-of-fact about your safer sex needs, the conversation is much more likely to go well.
  • Use lube first. Dental dams can be a bit fiddly because they’re so thin and light. Applying some lube to the area before you lay the dam down will make it stick there, reducing the chances of slippage or accidental inhalation. You’ll still need to hold it with your hands though, just in case.
  • Don’t pull it too tight. Unlike a condom, a dental dam doesn’t need to be skintight. Letting it sit comfortably will increase pleasurable sensations and also make it easier for you to feel your way around.
  • Replace as often as needed. If your sexy sessions are anything like mine, then you may find that things get pretty wild down there! If the dam you're using starts to get scrunched up to the point where you’re worried it’s not doing its job, it’s fine to take the old one off and reapply a new one. The same rule applies when taking a break or doing different activities – once you come back to that area, pop a new dam over it. 
  • Put it back into the bag when you’re done. Most dental dams come in a handy zip-top sandwich-style bag. They’re great for storing used dental dams, condoms, condom wrappers, and wet wipes. Once you’re done, you can simply zip up the bag and throw the whole thing in the trash.

When it comes to safer sex, we have many tools at our disposal…

…and if you want to be a real bedroom expert, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the standard approach. Dental dams are an excellent item to know about and use during sex. Like condoms, they do take practice. The payoff is being able to indulge in all kinds of fun stuff with fewer worries about STIs. I’d recommend you give it a go!

Are you a sex worker or client with tips or experiences to share? We'd love to hear from you!

The Good Client Guide destigmatizes sex work while providing guidance on how to be a better client and ally. Better experiences for workers mean better experiences for clients! To make this happen, we’re welcoming submissions from both providers and their customers.

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