What is This Green Thing, and Why are They Using it When They Work on my Teeth?

If you undergo any dental treatment with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara in the near future, you may notice that they are doing things a little differently.  As with all the other changes around the office, this one is in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and is a powerful tool to keep us all safe!

What is a Rubber Dam?

shutterstock_654478738A rubber dam, sometimes also called dental dam, is a barrier device that dentists use to isolate a single tooth or small section of neighboring teeth.  It consists of a small square of non-latex material, holes corresponding to the number of teeth being isolated, a small clamp that keeps it in place, and a frame that stretches the square over the opening of the mouth.

Rubber dams are not new and have been in continuous use in dentistry for many decades.  If you have had a root canal, you wore a rubber dam during the procedure.  In the past, rubber dams were used for procedures that require zero contamination by saliva – namely, root canals.

A rubber dam keeps saliva and the surrounding oral tissues (lips, cheeks, tongue) separate from the teeth on which the dentist is working.  They also prevent any dental materials (all the bad-tasting stuff) from touching anything except the teeth.

How Does a Rubber Dam Protect People from COVID-19?

As we stated in the previous section, one of the purposes of a rubber dam was to stop saliva from reaching the working field.  The importance of a rubber dam in the time of coronavirus is that it also stops saliva from reaching the air.  When the dentist uses a high-speed handpiece, it emits a small but powerful spray of air and water.  When this hits the mouth, it creates an aerosol (another word we are all more familiar with since the pandemic hit) of air, water and saliva.

Some studies have shown that people infected with coronavirus could have the virus present in their saliva.  Creating an aerosol with an infected person’s saliva could introduce that virus into the air in our treatment rooms.  We are taking steps to prevent the presence of any infected persons in our office, whether patient or staff, through our newly implemented screenings.  However, we know that some people can carry the virus without symptoms.  It is in response to this small, but real, risk that we have added the use of rubber dams to each procedure that allows its use.

It is not possible to use a rubber dam for professional teeth cleanings, extractions, or the final steps of a dental filling or crown.    

What Does it Feel Like to Have a Rubber Dam on your Teeth?

First, it does not hurt.  The small clamp hugs a single tooth as an anchor to hold the dam in place.  Because the procedures requiring the use of a high-speed handpiece also require local anesthetic, the gums surrounding the teeth will be numb, and you will not feel any discomfort while the clamp is in place.

Patients who tend to feel claustrophobic find that they actually like the use of a rubber dam.  We know it sounds crazy, but there are truly many benefits to this tool.

  • The water sprayed throughout the procedure does not collect in your mouth or the back of your throat. It collects on top of the rubber dam where the dental assistant can easily remove it.
  • There are fewer dental instruments inside your mouth because the rubber dam holds your cheeks, lips and tongues out of the way.
  • You cannot taste any of the dental materials.
  • It almost lets you imagine that the dental treatment is occurring somewhere else, not in your mouth, because of the complete separation of the selected teeth from the rest of your mouth.
  • It allows Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara to work much faster, so your treatment will take less time.

More Questions about Dental Treatment in the Time of Coronavirus?

Call 972-347-1145 to ask any questions you have about our current protocols or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara.

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