How a rubber dam during dental procedures improves treatment and quality of care
By Staci Violante, RDH, BSDH, MSDH
A dental or rubber dam, also known as a Kofferdam, is a thin, six-inch, latex or nitrile square sheet that is used in dentistry as a shield to isolate one or more teeth from the remainder of the mouth during a dental procedure. The rubber dam is used in dentistry mainly for endodontic, fixed prosthodontic (crowns and bridges), and restorative procedures. Aside from isolating the treatment or operative site, “the purpose of the rubber dam is to prevent saliva from interfering with the dental work, such as contamination of oral microorganisms during root canal therapy, or to keep filling materials such as composite dry during placement and curing, and to prevent instruments and materials from being aspirated, swallowed, or damaging the mouth.”1 Consider this analogy: A doctor uses surgical drapes to isolate the area of the body being operated on to prevent bacterial contamination from occurring; this is the equivalent of a dentist using a rubber dam for a dental procedure where isolation is necessary.
The dental dam
The dental dam is detained over a single tooth or multiple teeth by the appropriate rubber dam clamps over the anchor tooth. The tooth crowns protrude out from the rubber dam through the individual holes made by a hole punch, isolating the tooth to be treated from the rest of the patient’s mouth. This keeps the tooth dry and reduces the risk of exposure to microorganisms. Listed below are several advantages and disadvantages of using a rubber dam during a dental procedure.2
The advantages of using a rubber dam:
- enhances visibility of the treatment site since the dam retracts the cheeks and lips