Rubber Dam: What is it and why do we use it?

Rubber Dam, what is it?

   Dentistry is an ever changing realm of artistry and technology. When your dentist tells you about a rubber dam for the first time, patients might wonder 'what on earth' they are talking about. This article intends to explain to our patients why we might recommend a rubber dam for certain procedures and what it is. 

   Understanding how modern concepts can allow each dentist to maximise the longevity of their materials. For a long time time now, dentists have known that when using white fillings and materials that need to chemically bond to a tooth, then preventing moisture from coming in to contact with these materials can make a big difference to their success. A dental dam is one device which will sit over a tooth and prevent saliva and the tongue and cheeks from contacting the area that the dentist is working on.

 How does it work?

   In the pictures, you might be able to see that a sheet of rubber sits over the teeth. The sheet can be held in place by several methods depending on each case. Sometimes we will use clasps over a tooth, and in others, we will use a small wedge of rubber between the teeth.

Is it uncomfortable?

   Many of my patients actually find the rubber dam more comfortable because they know that they can effectively relax. They don't need to worry about the spray of water from the drill and swallowing. Also, their tongue can relax because it is away from where the dentist is working.

   For some patients, they will prefer not to have this device used and there are some alternatives such as an Iso-Vac which we will include in another blog.

What are the benefits?

   For a dentist, we are always striving to ensure that our work lasts for it's maximum amount of time. Less is more when it comes to providing care for our patients. Therefore, if we can provide care which will last for longer for our patients then we feel like we are doing a good job.

   When a rubber dam is in place, the moisture in the mouth is controlled. This way, the dentist can ensure that treatment is more predictable, and often more comfortable for patients.

 When might my dentist recommend it?

   More often than not, dentists are using materials which don't like moisture, you can imagine that this is tricky when working in someone's mouth! Effectively, whenever we might use a white filling or be placing a restoration such as a veneer or onlay, then a rubber dam would help us.

   When a root canal treatment is being completed, we are aiming to ensure that the tooth is clean. This means that we really want to ensure that no saliva and bacteria can enter the tooth. A rubber dam is very important for this procedure. The dam also acts to protect the patient when small instruments are used.

Are there situations when you won't use it?

   For some teeth, a dental dam can prevent the dentist from accessing the right areas and completing the treatment. An example might be, if a tooth is very far back, or if a cavity is below the gum line. Also, for some patients, they may find that they are more comfortable with alternative ways of keeping the tooth dry, in the majority of cases, your dentist can find an alternative way of doing this. Where it is not possible to keep a tooth dry, your dentist may use a different material to restore the tooth.

Is there a benefit of using it because of COVID-19?

   Many eminent dentists are recommending the use of rubber dam during this time because this means that the risk of transmitting the virus is greatly lowered. The air and water used by the dentist drill is not mixed with a patient's saliva and therefore the risk is lowered.

What are your thoughts at Headless Cross Dental Practice?

   We think that because dentistry has progressed so much in recent years, it is important to provide good quality information to our patients. We always make sure that we are treating the patient, and not the tooth. In light of this, it is good to discuss what treatment we might suggest and ensure that you are comfortable with any new technique. We feel that you would also want us to provide you with the best care and in the safest environment and therefore we do try to adopt these more modern approaches where best to do so.

In Summary

   We welcome out patients to discuss treatment techniques and options with us. We appreciate that one size does not fit all and that by getting to know each of our patients well over the years that you stay with us, we are able provide a tailored service for each patient. This article is for those who are curious about what the bright colours are in some of the case photos which you may have seen. I hope to have answered any questions for those curious people! 

References: -

Rubber dam: an overview

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