A dental dam or rubber dam is a thin sheet used in dentistry to isolate the operative site from the rest of the mouth. It was designed in the United States in 1864 by Sanford Christie Barnum. Its purpose is to both prevent saliva interfering with the dental work and instruments and materials from being inhaled, swallowed or damaging the mouth
Advantages of Rubber Dam
Absence of moisture
Improved access and visibility
Protection against swallowing or aspiration
Protection of exposed dentin from recontamination
Protection against aerosols (ex: HIV)
Protects against contamination of the restorations materials by moisture
Improvement of operating efficiency
Disadvantages of Rubber Dam
Difficult for patient to breath
Unfortunately, many dentists nowadays still work without rubberdam. Therefore, the outcome of their results are significantly diminished in contrast to dentists that isolate the tooth/teeth during their procedures.
Rubberdam can be combined with other materials to give an even better isolation/retraction. Such materials are teflon, floss or retraction cord.
Here are some clinical photos that demonstrate the use of the rubberdam and its components in the goal of providing a clean, sterile, and friendly environment to work on:
As you can see, isolating the teeth from the rest of the cavity can give the clinician much better and more predictable results. Moreover, the comfort that the patient has with such isolation is amazing. Come on, how many of you hate having water or saliva accumulated down your throat impeding your breathing or even making you choke ?