Dr Kaejenn Tchia
Written by Dr Kaejenn Tchia, Oct 27, 2023
Fact Checked

Did you know the human mouth contains around 500 to 1,000 different types of bacteria?

That is why it is no surprise that no matter how thoroughly you clean your teeth and mouth, some bacteria will always remain. This is not usually a problem. However, if you are undergoing certain types of dental treatment, the inside of your tooth may be exposed to the oral environment and the bacteria could enter that open space! If you are wondering what could stop this happening, not to worry, your dentist has it covered! It is called a rubber dam.

What is rubber dam?

A rubber dam (or dental dam) is a thin square sheet of rubber latex used to isolate the treatment site from the rest of the mouth and lips. This is achieved by placing some holes in the rubber dam material that surrounds the neck of the tooth 360°, anchored by a dental clamp (rubber dam clamp). A metal or plastic frame then goes over the dam to stretch it out and ensure it is seated properly before the teeth are flossed to further slide the dam into position. Most dental dams are made of latex but there are latex-free options that dentists use for patients with latex allergies.


What is it used for?

Rubber dams are used for a variety of dental procedures including root canal treatment, crown and bridge treatments, placing veneers on the surface of teeth as well as general fillings to fix teeth affected by tooth decay.

A single tooth isolated from the rest of the mouth using a rubber dam. Getty images

The main benefit of the rubber dam is to create a bacteria-free and dry treatment area by keeping away any saliva or blood from the rest of the mouth. Blood or saliva getting into the area of treatment may affect the success of the treatment.
The rubber dam also acts as a protective barrier preventing the dental materials or instruments, especially those that are very small, from accidentally being swallowed or breathed in. The rubber dam protects the opening of your throat as well as the soft tissues in your mouth.
In Australia, the use of the rubber dam is mandatory when having a root canal treatment. It is important to have a sterile and dry treatment area. This helps to ensure the best possible treatment can be provided. Without the rubber dam, bacteria could enter the root canal system, possibly causing your tooth to not successfully heal from infection.

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About the Author
Dr Kaejenn Tchia

Bupa Dental Casuarina
Dr Tchia is a dentist based in Darwin, NT. Aside from working in private practice, Kaejenn also holds an executive position in the ADA NT Branch as well being a member of multiple ADA subcommittees.

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