What is a rubber dental dam?

September 30, 2015

What is a rubber dental dam?
Dental dam on a patient. All the front teeth and the premolars are isolated with a rubber dam.
Single tooth isolation with a rubber dam.
Dental dam isolation with a rubber dam clamp.
Dental dam is a latex sheet that isolates teeth from the lips, gums and cheeks. It is used by dentists and prevents bacteria contamination of the working field.
Rubber dam for teeth isolation
In the field of dentistry, the rubber dental dam is a rectangular piece of latex or nitrile that is used during procedures such as root canals or fillings. For those allergic to latex, non-latex versions are also available. The dentist will place a small hole in the dam to expose the teeth that is being worked on. The dental dam is then placed onto a metal frame and a rubber dam clamp is fitted onto the tooth. The rubber sheet goes around the clamp and keeps the tooth isolated from the cheeks, tongue and saliva.

What is the purpose of the rubber dam placement?

The main purpose in using a dental dam is to isolate the teeth being worked on from the rest of the mouth. This provides the dentist with a clean, dry area to work on. Rubber dams serve a variety of purposes during dental treatment. It prevents the patient's saliva from getting onto the tooth, which is especially important during procedures such as root canals, as saliva can cause baceria contamination. The dam also helps to keep the tongue out of the way during treatment. Rubber da, prevents water or tiny pieces of debris from getting into your mouth and throat during treatment. For those who have a strong gag reflex, it can also help to prevent gagging during dental procedures. The rubber dam also serves to protect the lips and cheeks from being accidentally bitten during a procedure by keeping them out of the way.One of the most important functions of using the dental dam is for the purpose of keeping the tooth dry. This can be especially important when placing the composite bond or dental sealants.

What about breathing or swallowing when using a dental dam?

Some patients express concerns about not being able to breathe properly or swallow while the rubber dam is in place. The breathing aspect should not present a problem, as there is plenty of space on each side of the dam to make it possible to breathe through the mouth and breathing through the nose is not obstructed. As far as swallowing goes, the main fear is choking on your own saliva while reclining in the dental chair. In most cases when a dental dam is used, the dentist will allow the patient to hold their own suction tube to remove any saliva that may build up and become problematic.
If you still have fears or concerns about using a dental dam, discuss them with your dentist before the actual treatment begins. This will give the dentist time to set the dam up in such a way as to make sure that you are able to breathe comfortably and have no issues with swallowing once the dam is in place. If your concerns center more around a fear of feeling claustrophobic, make sure your dental professional is aware of this so that other options, such as sedation, can be considered. Most patients do well with the rubber dental dam and actually prefer using it as opposed to having to deal with togue retractors and suction tubes.


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