The rubber dam is a special sheet used in dentistry to provide a completely dry and clean operative site.
The rubber dam is a very popular tool in dentistry, which helps numerous dental offices in the world. It is used in many fields including general dentistry, endodontics, prosthodontics, orthodontics, and more. A number of the materials used in procedures require that the surfaces of teeth are completely clean and dry before application. This is very hard to achieve, especially because of the salivary flow. Saliva not only makes the surfaces wet, but it also brings bacteria which can compromise the end result. The rubber dam was first used in 1864, as a 6-inch sheet in the shape of a square. The fabric can be either nitrile or latex.
The biggest advantage of a rubber dam is that it provides a clean and dry operating area. Since there is no way to stop the flow of saliva, dentists have to use many different methods to get a dry field. The rubber dam is one of the best methods there are. It can be used on a singular tooth or multiple. It all depends on the dental procedure and what exactly the dentist needs. Restorative materials require a completely dry and clean dental substance. Enamel and dentin should retain the restorative materials and the best way to do it is to eliminate saliva.
Another huge advantage is the much lower contact with bacteria that comes from the saliva itself. Since all of the procedures are best done in a sterile field, the rubber dam helps with that. Also, this method of isolation helps with the accidental swallowing of dental materials and instruments. Thanks to rubber dam, dental professionals have a much better visibility to the area where they’re working. The oral cavity is so small, so dentists can use the help. Also, there is a lower chance of damage caused by harmful dental materials to the soft tissues.
The rubber dam is especially good when working on a root canal since the possibility of contamination is significantly lower. When the rubber square is placed, the surrounding tissues are more protected from the rotary and sharp instruments as well. There are patients that can’t stand the cotton rolls inside their mouth and instantly get a gag reflex when they are placed. The rubber dam is another option dentists should consider for these patients.
When it comes to disadvantages, the biggest one is the complicated process of application. Cotton rolls only take seconds, while a rubber dam is more complicated. With proper practice dentists very easily overcome this disadvantage. There should be a good and extensive training for professionals to know the right way to apply and use the rubber dam. If by any chance it is not applied properly there might be slight damage to the soft tissues in the mouth. This can happen even if it’s placed the right way. The rubber dam is a more expensive method and technique. While cotton rolls don’t cost a lot, we can’t say the same thing applies to the rubber dam. Dental professionals should know the best way to sterilize the parts and instruments of the dam in order to protect them. The patient cannot communicate with the dentist when the dam is already placed. Sometimes dentists can have a hard time working on a single tooth since all of the others will be covered. That is why some of them start with the root canal routine before placing the rubber dam, to find the roots.
Another problem is that the dam can interfere with appearance. It has a greenish to blue color, that can affect the natural color of the tooth and the placement of a restoration. Experienced dentists should not have a problem with this, but it can be hard for the inexperienced. There are patients that are allergic to latex and simply cannot get in touch with the dam. Others find the technique unpleasant and prefer other methods.