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What is a dental dam?

If you’ve ever had any dental restoration work done, you have more than likely encountered the use of a dental dam.

The dental dam, also known as the rubber dam, is a thin sheet of latex or nitrile used to isolate the teeth from the rest of the mouth and lips.

It is anchored around the crown of a tooth using a clamp. A metal or plastic frame then goes over the dam to stretch it out and to ensure it is seated properly while the dental nurse flosses between your teeth to further slide the dam into position.

What is it used for and why?

A rubber dam can be used for a variety of dental treatments, include fillings, fissure sealants, crowns, dental bridges or root canal treatment.

Use of the rubber dam creates a bacteria-free and dry operating field, ensuring the teeth are not contaminated by saliva or blood. A dry operating field also ensures that maximum adhesive strengths are achieved when placing a filling to bond to enamel and/or dentine. A contaminated environment could otherwise result in a shortened success and lifespan of a restoration.

In rare circumstances, instruments and toxic substances that could spill down the throat or get into contact with your oral mucosa are also prevented by the rubber dam as it protects the opening of the throat and around your mouth.

In Australia, use of the rubber dam is mandatory when having root canal treatment. As the nerves and blood vessels are exposed during this procedure, a sterile environment is needed to ensure success of the treatment. Without the dental dam, your tooth may not heal from infection successfully.

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