When your dentist sends you to the endodontist for a root canal or performs the procedure you may be seeing some new instruments not normally on the dental tray. One of these is the rubber dam. What exactly is it, and why is it being used?

The “dental dam”, introduced in the last half of the 18th century, is primarily used in root canal treatment, but can be used in other tooth restoration procedures as well. It consists of a thin 4” x 4” square, usually latex or nitrile (synthetic rubber) held in place on a plastic or metal frame. A small hole is punched into it for access to the tooth being treated, then the dam is spread across the patient’s mouth. The dam is held in place by a small clamp on the tooth being treated.

According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), there are many advantages to using a dam, the main one being to block oral bacteria from accessing the root chamber. The rubber dam provides a clean, clear surgical area for the dentist and helps prevent saliva and blood from entering into the area during treatment, similar to what surgeons do when they operate and use surgical drapes to isolate the area requiring surgery. In addition, the dam keeps the lips, beards, and mustaches out of the field of view allowing better light on the area.

Another benefit of the dam is that it often allows patients with severe gag reflexes or anxiety to undergo procedures without triggering the gag reflex or having their mouth filled with water and suction devices.

Using a dental dam is the standard of care for certain endodontic procedures in the United States, and according to the AAE, it should be required in root canals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the dam as a “universal precaution.” Despite the advantages the dam provides, reports from the National Institutes of Health showed that 53–63% of dentists surveyed didn’t use dams at all. Reasons included inconvenience, irrelevance (to the procedure), and patient refusal. So why bother with dams?

The AAE maintains that dental dams are effective in limiting the spread of bacteria. They also protect dentists, dental assistants, and patients from possible exposure to infectious diseases or blood-borne pathogens during procedures.

While good results for endodontic procedures are possible without a dam, using a dental dam is the more professional option. At Professional Endodontics, our expert and experienced team uses dental dams when it’s appropriate and advantageous for our patients. We invite you to contact us to have a conversation about building a partnership. Your patients will remain your patients as we work together to assure their dental well-being.

About Professional Endodontics

Professional Endodontics has been exceeding the standard of care in Wayne and Macomb counties for over 50 years.  The team specializes in treating issues with the inside of the tooth and goes out of its way to provide a safe easy environment for patients. Each member of the practice is dedicated to providing excellence in patient care and values high-quality relationships with referring dentists and specialists.  Each endodontist at Professional Endodontics has been individually chosen as Hour Detroit Magazine’s Best Dentists.  Thanks to contemporary advances in endodontics, Professional Endodontics is able to use innovative technology to treat and save teeth that have suffered damage to the soft tissue within the roots of the tooth.

Professional Endodontics offers state-of-the-art facilities in Clarkston, Clinton Township, St. Clair Shores, and Southfield.  All locations offer the latest in advanced dental delivery systems, microscopy, and digital radiography.

6803 Dixie Highway
Suite 3
Clarkston, MI 48346
(248) 358-2910

29201 Telegraph Road
Suite 110
Southfield, MI 48034
(248) 358-2910

Clinton Township
Henry Ford Hospital Medical Pavilion
16151 19 Mile Rd, Suite 101
Clinton Township, MI 48038

St. Clair Shores
St. Clair Professional Plaza
23829 Little Mack, Suite 300
St. Clair Shores, MI 48080