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Tips for Using Condoms and Dental Dams

for Veterans and the Public

Tips for using condoms and dental dams

Some people think that using a condom makes sex less fun. Other people have become creative and find condoms sexy. Not having to worry about infecting someone will definitely make sex much more enjoyable!

If you are not used to using condoms: practice, practice, practice.

Condom dos and don'ts:

  • Shop around: Use lubricated latex condoms. Always use latex, because lambskin condoms don't block HIV and STDs, and polyurethane condoms break more often than latex. Shop around and find your favorite brand. Try different sizes and shapes (yes, they come in different sizes and shapes!). There are a lot of choices--one will work for you.
  • Keep it fresh: Store condoms loosely in a cool, dry place (not your wallet). Make sure your condoms are fresh--check the expiration date. Throw away condoms that have expired, been very hot, or been washed in the washer. If you think the condom might not be good, get a new one. You and your partner are worth it.
  • Take it easy: Open the package carefully, so that you don't rip the condom. Be careful if you use your teeth. Make sure that the condom package has not been punctured (there should be a pocket of air). Check the condom for damaged packaging and signs of aging such as brittleness, stickiness, and discoloration.
  • Keep it hard: Put on the condom after the penis is erect and before it touches any part of a partner's body. If a penis is uncircumcised (uncut), the foreskin must be pulled back before putting on the condom.
  • Heads up! Make sure the condom is right-side out. It's like a sock--there's a right side and a wrong side. Before you put it on the penis, unroll the condom about half an inch to see which direction it is unrolling. Then put it on the head of the penis and hold the tip of the condom between your fingers as you roll it all the way down the shaft of the penis from head to base. This keeps out air bubbles that can cause the condom to break. It also leaves a space for semen to collect after ejaculation.
  • Slippery when wet: If you use a lubricant (lube), it should be a water-soluble lubricant (for example, ID Glide, K-Y Jelly, Slippery Stuff, Foreplay, Wet, Astroglide) in order to prevent breakdown of the condom. Products such as petroleum jelly, massage oils, butter, Crisco, Vaseline, and hand creams are not considered water-soluble lubricants and should not be used.
  • Slippery when wet--part 2: Put lubricant on after you put on the condom, not before--it could slip off. Add more lube often. Dry condoms break more easily.
  • Come and go...: Withdraw the penis immediately after ejaculation, while the penis is still erect; grasp the rim of the condom between your fingers and slowly withdraw the penis (with the condom still on) so that no semen is spilled.
  • Clean up: Throw out the used condom right away. Tie it off to prevent spillage or wrap it in bathroom tissue and put it in the garbage. Condoms can clog toilets. Use a condom only once. Never use the same condom for vaginal and anal intercourse. Never use a condom that has been used by someone else.

Do you have to use a condom for oral sex?

It is possible for oral sex to transmit HIV, whether the infected partner is performing or receiving oral sex. But the risk is low compared with unprotected vaginal or anal sex.

If you choose to perform oral sex, and your partner is male,

  • use a latex condom on the penis; or
  • if you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms can be used.

If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female,

  • use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam, or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. A latex barrier such as a dental dam reduces the risk of blood or vaginal fluids entering your mouth. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier.

If you choose to perform oral sex with either a male or female partner and this sex includes oral contact with your partner's anus (anilingus or rimming),

  • use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam, or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the anus. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier. This barrier is to prevent getting another sexually transmitted disease or parasites, not HIV.

If you choose to share sex toys, such as dildos or vibrators, with your partner,

  • each partner should use a new condom on the sex toy; and be sure to clean sex toys between each use.

Female condom

Most people have never heard of these, but they may be helpful for you. The female condom is a large condom made of polyurethane fitted with larger and smaller rings at each end that help keep it inside the vagina. They may seem a little awkward at first, but can be an alternative to the male condom. They are made of polyurethane, so any lubricant can be used without damaging them. Female condoms generally cost more than male condoms, and if you aren't used to them, you'll definitely need to practice.

  • Store the condom in a cool dry place, not in direct heat or sunlight.
  • Throw away any condoms that have expired--the date is printed on individual condom wrappers.
  • Check the package for damage and check the condom for signs of aging such as brittleness, stickiness, and discoloration. The female condom is lubricated, so it will be somewhat wet.
  • Before inserting the condom, you can squeeze lubricant into the condom pouch and rub the sides together to spread it around.
  • Put the condom in before sex play because pre-ejacliatory fluid, which comes from the penis, may contain HIV. The condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex.
  • The female condom has a firm ring at each end of it. To insert the condom, squeeze the ring at the closed end between the fingers (like a diaphragm), and push it up into the back of the vagina. The open ring must stay outside the vagina at all times, and it will partly cover the lip area.
  • Do not use a male condom with the female condom.
  • Do not use a female condom with a diaphragm.
  • If the penis is inserted outside the condom pouch or if the outer ring (open ring) slips into the vagina, stop and take the condom out. Use a new condom before you start sex again.
  • Don't tear the condom with fingernails or jewelry.
  • Use a female condom only once and properly dispose of it in the trash (not the toilet).

Dental dams and plastic wrap

Even though oral sex is a low-risk sexual practice, you may want to use protection when performing oral sex on someone who has HIV.

Dental dams are small squares of latex that were made originally for use in dental procedures. They are now commonly used as barriers when performing oral sex on women, to keep in vaginal fluids or menstrual blood that could transmit HIV or other STDs.

Some people use plastic wrap instead of a dental dam. It's thinner.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Before using a dental dam, first check it visually for any holes.
  • If the dental dam has cornstarch on it, rinse that off with water (starch in the vagina can lead to an infection).
  • Cover the woman's genital area with the dental dam.
  • For oral-anal sex, cover the opening of the anus with a new dental dam.
  • A new dental dam should be used for each act of oral sex; it should never be reused.