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Decreasing Contamination

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How We Do It

Some dental procedures are best performed outside the mouth. This is most true particularly if they involve lots of bacteria or foul-tasting material that is unavoidable. However, this is impossible. That’s why I use a “dental dam” for certain procedures. Small metal “clamps” hold the six-inch square of thin latex rubber or silicone, that slips over 1-5 teeth. They tend to hug teeth near the gum line. Once this clamp is secured in place, this square is stretched over a metal frame outside the mouth, creating a dry area of operation for me and a “raincoat” that prevents bad-tasting material from entering your mouth. Blood or saliva cannot penetrate this barrier, either.  This is significant when I use “adhesive” to make a filling more durable.

I still remember practicing the insertion of a dental dam in dental school. I had to punch a tiny hole in the latex, stretch it to fit over a large tooth, and then use odd “pliers” to cinch the correct size of the clamp around a tooth. Every dental student struggled. Most were still struggling on the seventh time they tried!

Since a well-trained dental assistant, which was unavailable in dental school, can perform chairside procedures to accomplish the same result, some practices no longer use dental dams.  However, I think that there is still merit in the dental dam for some procedures or specific patients.