Tongue condoms, also referred to as oral condoms, are condoms used during oral sex. They’re used to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85 percent of sexually active adults aged 18 to 44 reported having oral sex with at least one partner of the opposite sex.

Tongue condoms are similar in design to traditional condoms with the exception of the open end, which is wider and designed to fit over the lips. This allows you to perform cunnilingus without direct contact with the vagina. A tongue condom can also be worn over the penis during oral sex.

Regular condoms that are safe for oral use and dental dams (also called oral barriers) can also be used to protect against STIs during oral sex.

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Tongue condoms are meant to protect a person from contracting any sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.

Your choices for actual tongue condoms are limited, but there are alternatives that are recommended for safer oral sex, including:

  • latex or polyurethane condoms
  • dental dams, which are latex squares
  • plastic wrap

Here are some tips to help you choose tongue condoms:

Use nonlubricated condoms

If you’re going to use traditional condoms for oral sex, unlubricated condoms are the way to go. Some people find the taste of the lubricants used to be off-putting. You also want to avoid condoms that contain nonoxynol-9, a spermicide that can cause irritation and tongue numbness.

Try flavored condoms

There are a variety of flavored condoms on the market that are great for oral sex. Make sure you read the label first, as some flavored condoms are novelty products and not rated for safe sex. Look for packaging that clearly indicates that the condoms protect against STIs.

Experiment with flavored lubricants

If you want to enjoy some flavor but prefer to use traditional condoms instead of the pre-flavored variety, you can always add a flavored lubricant.

Read the label if you’re planning to use the lubricant for vaginal or anal sex to make sure it’s also safe for penetration. Remember that oil-based lubricants aren’t safe to use with latex because they cause latex to deteriorate.

Don’t use oil-based food products with latex tongue condoms

It can be tempting to use a food product as an alternative to flavored lubricant during oral sex. While syrups and other foods found in your kitchen may seem like a safe alternative, foods that are oil-based, such as peanut butter, can cause latex to break down.

Use polyurethane condoms if you or your partner have a latex allergy

Polyurethane condoms are a safe alternative for people who are allergic to latex. Just like with latex condoms, you’ll want to avoid those that contain spermicide. Oil-based lubricants are safe for use with polyurethane condoms.

Check the expiry date

Condoms and lubricants have a long shelf life, but you should always check the expiration date to be sure. Do not use products that have expired.

Condoms are highly effective in preventing the spread of STIs and HIV when used properly. Whether you’re using a tongue condom, a dental dam, or a regular condom for oral sex, following the instructions on the packaging is important.

Here are instructions on how to use condoms and dental dams for oral sex.

For fellatio (mouth-to-penis):

  1. Take the condom out of the wrapper and unroll it just enough to make sure it’s right-side out.
  2. Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of the erect penis.
  3. Leave a bit of space at the tip to collect semen.
  4. Unroll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis so that it’s completely covered.

For cunnilingus (mouth-to-vagina) or analingus (mouth-to-anus) using a dental dam:

  1. Carefully remove the dental dam from the package.
  2. Inspect the dental dam for tears or damage.
  3. Place the dental dam flat over the vagina or anus — do not stretch it.

To use a condom as a dental dam:

  1. Remove the condom from the package and unroll.
  2. Carefully cut the tip off the condom using sharp scissors.
  3. Cut the bottom of the condom off above the rim.
  4. Cut down one side of the condom.
  5. Lay flat over the vagina or anus.

Plastic wrap, such as saran wrap or Cling Wrap found in grocery stores, can also be used as a protective barrier during oral sex. To use plastic wrap, cut a piece big enough to cover the vagina or anus and use it as you would a dental dam.

How to use lubricant

Adding lubricant before using a condom or dental dam for oral sex can help increase sensitivity. Here’s how to do it:

  • For fellatio, apply one or two drops of lubricant to the head of the penis before putting on the condom. Remember to use only water or silicone-based lubricant when using latex condoms.
  • For cunnilingus or analingus, apply a few drops of lube to the area before placing the dental dam or condom-turned-dental dam over the vagina or anus.

Flavored lubricant should be applied on top of the condom or dental dam once it’s in place. Most flavored lubricants can be applied as liberally as desired, but it’s important to read the instructions first. You or your partner can drizzle the lubricant over the penis, vulva, or anus while the other ensures the protection stays in place.

Even though the risk of contracting some STIs is lower through oral sex than vaginal or anal sex, it can still happen. Using a tongue condom or dental dam to prevent the passing of bodily fluids can help prevent a number of STIs, including HIV and HPV, which is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers.

Always read the labels and choose products that are safe for oral use and rated for the prevention of STIs. Keep tongue condoms on until you’re finished having oral sex and always put on a new condom before switching to vaginal or anal sex.