Safe Dentistry: What is a Dental Dam and What are the Benefits?

Dental Dams

When getting dental work done, your dentist may use a dental dam for safety. If you’re not expecting it, this device might make you uncomfortable and nervous. Read on to get answers to “what is a dental dam?” and to understand why some dentists use them.

What is a Dental Dam?

While operating on any other body part, surgeons use surgical drapes to isolate the area being treated and to prevent bacterial contamination. Likewise, dentists use a dental dam for endodontic procedures, or procedures involving the nerves, arterioles, venules, lymphatic tissue, and fibrous tissue in your mouth to isolate and protect.

Your dentist will put a dental dam, or thin square of latex rubber, over your mouth and will use small clamps along the edge of your gums to hold it in place during an endodontic treatment. If you are sensitive to latex, you may request a silicone dental dam instead.

Next, your dentist may use a special hole punch to make holes in the dental dam that allow your crown or crowns being treated to stand out. Using a dental dam creates a clean and dry operating area, retracts your lips and cheeks and allows treatment of your problem teeth without contamination from blood or saliva. Putting on a dental dam typically takes just a few minutes.

So what is a dental dam? In short, a dental dam is a protective device used by dentists or other specialists when treatment of your teeth may put the rest of your teeth or mouth at risk for infection.

What are the Benefits of a Dental Dam and Is It Really Necessary?

Dentists use dental dams during endodontic procedures to create a safe operating environment. But what exactly are the benefits of using a dental dam? A dental dam:

  • keeps the treated area dry and free of blood or saliva when placing a filling, so that the adhesive may bond efficiently, making the filling more durable.
  • prevents the treated area from being exposed to bacteria in your saliva and oral cavity.
  • protects your tongue and gums from irritation that could otherwise occur during treatment.
  • prevents the possibility of any materials or chemicals falling into your mouth or being ingested during treatment.

Obviously, using a dental dam proves to be beneficial to you as a patient in many ways. It helps protects you from additional health issues while protecting your investment of time and money in the procedure.

Plus, using a dental dam will protect a dentist from exposure to your blood and saliva. Yet, in one study, only 12% of dental restorations were completed using a dental dam (National Center for Biotechnology Information). Unfortunately, many dentists do not use dental dams, due to the perceived ‘inconvenience’ or sometimes a patient’s refusal.

At The Happy Tooth, we use dental dams during appropriate procedures, for the protection of all parties involved. It’s just another way we help make your visit stress-free and successful. Contact The Happy Tooth today to set up your next dental check-up or endodontic treatment.

With this answer to “what is a dental dam?” and an explanation of its benefits, hopefully your next dental treatment can be less surprising, safer and more effective.


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