What is a Rubber Dam?

Dr. Brett Saltzman
Authored By:
Dr. Brett Saltzman

Your paediatric dentist may use a rubber barrier when treating your child’s teeth. This barrier is known as a rubber dam. There are several reasons a rubber dam is used, such as improving the treatment field for the dentist and increasing the safety of your child by protecting their airway during the treatment. Also, isolating the area to be treated may make the treatment time shorter. A rubber dam, however, is not suitable for every treatment. The type of treatment being performed or the condition of the teeth may prevent its use such as when braces are involved.

There are several steps in preparing the instruments needed to place the rubber dam over the teeth. First, the dentist must select the right clamp, which will be used to secure the dam over the tooth to be treated. After this, the dentist must prepare the rubber dam by skillfully creating holes in the rubber sheet, according to the section of the mouth to be treated. Then, it is mounted on a frame. Once this is ready, the clamp will be carefully placed over the tooth, with a piece of floss attached to it. The floss is there to ensure there is a tight enough fit between the clamp and the tooth. Next, the dentist will fit the rubber dam around this clamp and some of the surrounding teeth. The dentist may use some water soluble lubricant to help in placing the dam over the teeth, though it is not always necessary.

Once the clamp and dam are in place, the procedure may begin. The dam will protect your child from any water or instrumentation that will be used during the procedure. If your child feels any discomfort from excess saliva building up in his or her mouth, the rubber dam is easily moved out of the way for the assistant to remove the saliva with suction.

When the procedure is over, the dentist will first rinse the area. The rubber dam will then be carefully loosened around then teeth and removed with a special pair of forceps. Your child’s mouth will then be checked and cleaned of any excess debris or material that may have been left behind.

Use of the rubber dam in treating your child’s teeth is an indispensible tool in paediatric dentistry. It allows your dentist to isolate the area to be worked on while protecting your child from inhaling excess fluids and materials used during treatment. It is a simple step used before most dental procedures are performed.