Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped devices that help to relax and stretch tight pelvic floor muscles and vaginal tissues. Commonly used to treat vaginismus, pelvic floor conditions, and dyspareunia, vaginal dilators are made from either silicone or plastic and are available in varying sizes. Not sure which dilator is right for you? Read on, to understand the differences when it comes to silicone dilators vs plastic dilators.
Women experience tight pelvic floor and vaginal muscles for several reasons, including but not limited to; recovery from pelvic injuries or pelvic surgery, cancer treatment, vaginal dryness during & after menopause, or because of a deep-rooted fear that sex will be painful. When vaginal muscles are tight, the vaginal canal narrows, penetration feels uncomfortable, and in many cases, sex becomes painful (dyspareunia).
When this physical pain of vaginal penetration connects to the mind, a psychological circle ensues. At the mere thought of penetration, the mind learns to expect pain, and muscle memory causes the vaginal muscles to tighten to protect the body. This cycle results in many women completely abstaining from vaginal penetration; whether it’s intercourse, tampon insertion, or a gynecological exam.
This circle of pain and fear can be treated, however, which is why pelvic floor physical therapists and gynecologists commonly recommend vaginal dilators. By gently stretching the vaginal tissues and pelvic muscles over time, vaginal dilators help to relieve vaginal tightness and restore the vaginal canal to its usual capacity, thus allowing patients to resume more comfortable penetration.
No, plastic and silicone dilators differ in many ways. The material they are made from is the obvious difference, however, the rate of pressure they exude upon the vaginal tissues is also different, the risk of bruising from both types is not the same, and how long silicone and plastic dilators last varies too.
That said, some women prefer certain aspects of plastic dilators over the more modern silicone version. But at the end of the day, whether you’re seeking comfort while inserting a tampon as a teenager, more confidence during your first sexual experience, returning to sex after menopause, recovering from a pelvic injury, hysterectomy, or surgery for vaginal septum or imperforate hymen - vaginal dilators can help.
Yes, silicone and plastic dilators are safe, as long as they are made using medical-grade material that is approved by the FDA. Intimate Rose Silicone Dilators, for instance, are not only FDA-approved they also comply with FDA guidelines.
Whether you’re seeking more ease while inserting a tampon, more self-assurance during your first sexual experience, re-engaging in sex after menopause, a pelvic injury, a hysterectomy, or surgery for vaginal septum or imperforate hymen - vaginal dilators are safe and can help you establish or re-establish pleasurable penetration.
Vaginal dilators have been used to relax and expand tight vaginal canals for over 80 years, and although plastic dilators were the first commercially produced versions, modern-day silicone dilators offer several added benefits and are considered far superior by many female health experts.
While some women still prefer the rigid firmness of plastic dilators, far more women opt for the softer (yet still firm) silicone dilators. When alleviating pain, especially within the delicate realms of the vagina, the gentle and gradual pressure from silicone dilators, as opposed to the unbending rigidity of plastic dilators, just feels more comfortable, less daunting, and inevitably more encouraging for users to continue with their dilation therapy.
Besides being softer, silicone dilators are also designed to feel more natural and life-like within the vagina than hard and inflexible plastic dilators. The more human-like sensation of silicone, in comparison to hard plastic, also helps women to relax and ultimately feel more prepared for the feeling of a real penis in the vagina.
Even though both silicone and plastic dilators can be used for cold and heat therapy to soothe the vagina during dilation, silicone provides superior temperature control to plastic. As well as that, the soft, natural feel of silicone dilators when heated or chilled simply feels better in the vagina than cold or warm plastic.
The softer and more flexible silicone dilators result in little to no bruising when compared with plastic dilators.
Medical-grade silicone is considered highly durable and has a far longer use expectancy than plastic. The only caution with silicone is that only water-based lubricant should be used as other types can damage the silicone. Silicone dilators are also easy to clean with warm water and soap.
Vaginal dilators are typically sold in sets of ascending dimensions of width, length, and circumference to allow vaginal tissues to stretch gradually and safely expand the vaginal canal over time.
Most patients begin with the smallest dilator in the set, which is more or less the size of a slim female finger. Once the first dilator feels comfortable in the vagina for a pre-determined amount of time, it is safe to move up to the next dilator in the set, and so forth until it feels comfortable to insert the largest dilator, which is typically the size of a regular penis.
While commonly sold in sets, vaginal dilators are also sold individually for women who might not require the smaller sizes. For best results, and clarification on which dilator is the best starting size for you, speak with your gynecologist or pelvic health physical therapist for guidance. Some common brands include Soul Source, Intimate Rose and VuvaTech.
Once your healthcare practitioner has clarified the correct size dilator for you to start with, you can regularly practice at home for optimal results. The following is a clear step-by-step guide for using Intimate Rose Silicone Vaginal Dilators:
When it comes to silicone and plastic dilators, many users find the soft and flexible silicone more comfortable in contrast to the stiff rigidity of an unbending plastic dilator. In contrast to those using plastic dilators, the feeling of safety and comfort from the more life-like silicone dilators also appears to encourage women to continue their dilation therapy until desired results are achieved.
If you are trying to choose between silicone dilators and plastic dilators, have a read above and decide which sounds like a better fit for you.
Science Direct – Vaginal Dilators - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/vaginal-dilator
Obstetrics & Gynaecology - Creation and maintenance of neo-vagina with the use of vaginal dilators as first line treatmenthttps://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajo.13487?af=R
Mayo Clinic – Dysapeurnia - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967
National Library of Medicine - Vaginal Dilator Therapy for Women Receiving Pelvic Radiotherapy - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6513398/