What is a Dental Dam?

While sitting in the dental chair waiting for your dentist to perform a procedure, the dental assistant mentions she forgot the dental dam needed for the procedure.  “A dental dam,” you say to yourself. “What can that be?”

A dental dam, or rubber dam as it is also known, is nothing more than a rectangular piece of latex used by dentists for certain procedures.  A dental dam in usually used for root canal treatments, but can also be used for tooth-colored fillings and other procedures, as well.  According to an article in dentalfearcentral.org, dentists refer to dental dams as “special raincoats for teeth.”

Your dentist will use a hole punch much like a paper punch to create a hole in the rectangular sheet to treat your tooth.  Usually, since the dental dam is used mainly for root canals, just one hole is punched in the sheet.  Once the hole is punched into the dam, your dentist places it on a metal frame for ease of placement.

Your dentist will then place a tiny clamp around your tooth to keep the dental dam in place, and then the sheet is slipped around the clamp.

You may wonder, “What is the purpose of this dental dam?”

The dam prevents your saliva from splashing onto the tooth, which is very important during a root canal treatment, because the bacteria in your saliva could re-contaminate your tooth.

The sheet of latex also prevents water and bits of tooth debris from entering your throat, and protects your tongue, lips and cheeks by keeping them out of the way, as well.

One of the most important purposes of a dental dam, though, is keeping the tooth dry.  Many materials used in root canals and other dental procedures need a dry environment to bond successfully.

You may worry that a rectangular piece of latex may make it hard for you to breathe or swallow, but don’t worry; there is plenty of room around the sides of the dental dam to both breath and swallow.

For those patients allergic to latex – no worries, as there are non-latex dental dams available.  Just inform your dentist of your allergy to latex and he will use substitute a non-latex dam when you undergo your next dental procedure.

Original article here.