Medical devices

Rubber dam – application & health benefits

Rubber dam

The rubber dam is a system that protects the teeth from disruptive influences during treatment. This system allows individual teeth to be isolated for treatment.

What is rubber dam?

The rubber dam serves to shield the teeth to be treated from unwanted influences such as saliva or bacteria . It also protects the patient from swallowing and inhaling harmful residues during dental treatment. These include amalgam residues , pathogens, crown residues , parts of the treatment tools (e.g. drill bits ) and much more.

The treated tooth should be kept as dry as possible during the treatment and the root canal should be protected from penetrating bacteria during root canal treatment.

A rubber dam is a rubber band that is stretched in front of the teeth that are not to be treated, while the teeth that are to be treated are isolated through holes in the rubber. This protection method was introduced by the New York dentist Sanford Christie Barnum in 1864. After the introduction of suction systems in the 1960s, the rubber dam slowly lost its importance again. However, more and more dentists today also appreciate the advantages of rubber dams. According to the assessment of the DGZMK (German Society for Dental, Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine), important dental treatments should be carried out with the help of a rubber dam. However, there is no mandatory obligation to do so.

Shapes, Species & Types

The use of a rubber dam has proven itself in root canal treatments, placing plastic or gold fillings , removing residual amalgam, tooth bleaching or adhesive fillings. Among other things, it prevents contact of the root canal with penetrating pathogens or contact of the gums with the caustic substances of the bleaching or the adhesive fillings.

The rubber dam consists of a rubber band made of latex. A non-latex material has also been launched for allergy sufferers . So-called cofferdam clamps are used to attach the elastic band to the teeth . In addition to the rubber dam clamps, threads, wet jets (dental floss) or interdental wedges can also be used as an alternative . A clamp pliers and a punch to punch holes for the teeth to be treated are also required as accessories. Furthermore, a clamping frame for stretching the elastic in front of the mouth is also included.

In addition to this basic equipment, however, newer developments are already on the market. There are ergonomic rubber dams with a nub-like design, where there is no need to mark the hole positions and punch out the holes. Plastic rings are integrated in some new developments, which makes fastening with clamps superfluous. Other systems already have a perforated rubber strap. These further developments of the rubber dam systems should increase their acceptance, which is still quite low today due to the sometimes cumbersome handling.

Structure & functionality

The way rubber dam systems work is very simple. Since the tooth has to be kept dry during a root canal treatment or when a plastic filling is placed, the rubber dam offers good protection against moisture from the saliva or wet breath. The constant suction is no longer necessary. The same applies to shielding the tooth from pathogens in the mouth.

When treating the isolated, detached teeth, caustic substances or drug solutions are often used, which cannot be swallowed when using this system. Likewise, there is no danger of swallowing tooth residues or amalgam residues.

For this purpose, the elastic band is stretched in front of the mouth using the clamping frame. The gum is then slipped over the teeth that are not to be treated. There it is fastened with the rubber dam clamps. The teeth or groups of teeth to be treated then protrude from the previously punched holes in the rubber. When treating gingivitis, the gums can also be isolated from the tooth using a rubber dam.

The mouth is constantly kept open with the rubber dam. The dentist can concentrate on the treatment of the teeth in peace, while the patient can swallow in peace.

Diseases & Ailments

The use of a rubber dam has many advantages. However, there are also disadvantages and contraindications. When the rubber dam is stretched, the dentist no longer has to worry about sucking out the teeth. In addition, tooth remains, parts of old fillings or broken parts of treatment tools are more easily visible to him. His work is also made easier because the patient’s mouth remains open throughout the treatment.

The benefit for the patient is that by keeping the treated tooth dry, a plastic filling, for example, can partially sit more firmly or contamination of the root canal with the bacteria of the oral mucosa during root treatment is prevented. This increases the chances of recovery enormously. Severe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) can also be treated better in some cases, because the focus of inflammation becomes visible by isolating the gums from the tooth.

However, the compressive stress of the rubber dam clamps can lead to pressure ulcers in the gums. The displacement of the gums from the tooth to treat previously invisible areas can also cause trauma to the gums.

Contraindications for applying a rubber dam are in epilepsy , allergies, asthma , respiratory diseases or anxiety disorders .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.