Rubber dam

By Dr. George Ghidrai

What is a rubber dam ?

A rubber dam (also known as dental dam) is a thin, rectangular sheet, usually latex rubber, used in dentistry to isolate the operative site (one or more teeth) from the rest of the mouth.

The rubber dam has two important purposes:

  1. It prevents saliva interfering with the dental work (for example, contamination of oral micro-organisms during root canal therapy, or to keep filling materials such as composite dry during placement and curing).

  2. It prevents instruments and materials from being inhaled, swallowed or damaging the mouth.

Dental dams come in lots of different colors. If you are allergic to latex, there are non-latex versions available.

A rubber dam is mainly used in endodontics (during root canal therapy), fixed prosthodontics (for example, when a crown or bridge is cemented) and general restorative treatments (when a filling is placed).

Placement technique

The dentist uses a hole-puncher to make a hole in the sheet for the tooth (or teeth) to be treated. The sheet is placed onto a metal frame to make it easier to place.

A tiny clamp is placed around the tooth itself to prevent the rubber dam from slipping, and then the sheet with the hole in it is slipped around the clamp.

When the operation is over, the tooth crown should stand out from the rubber dam through the individual hole made by the hole-puncher.

What are the benefits of using a rubber dam?


Although most practitioners agree that the rubber dam has certain benefits, few private practices use the rubber dam as a standard isolating procedure.

Some dentists even argue that unrestricted and arbitrary widespread use is abusive to the patient and dentist as, in most cases, more efficient and comfortable alternatives exist (such as high speed suction, custom retraction devices, disposable cotton rolls, gauze packs and throat screens, retraction cord systems etc).

Nevertheless, at least for some dental procedures (for example root canal therapy), a properly placed rubber dam can maximize the chances for success.

Last review and update: August 2021

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Rubber Dam