General dentists frequently work with endodontists on procedures, such as root canal treatments, designed to save natural teeth. Dentists often develop strong referral relationships with endodontists and may also place the crown that completes the root canal treatment. One topic, however, on which there is not general consensus between dentists and endodontists concerns the use of rubber dental dams during root canals.
A dental dam is a small sheet of latex or non-latex material that can have a hole punched in it so that the tooth a practitioner wants to work on is physically separated by the dam from the rest of a patient’s mouth. A 2015 survey revealed that only 47 percent of general dentists from a variety of backgrounds reported always using dental dams during root canals. In contrast, the American Association of Endodontists reaffirmed a position statement in 2017 asserting, “Tooth isolation using the dental dam is the standard of care; it is integral and essential for any nonsurgical endodontic treatment.”
Why are dental dams considered critical to endodontic care? Let’s look at the advantages when rubber dams are used during root canals and related procedures.
Why Endodontists Use A Rubber Dam During A Root Canal
It isolates the tooth being worked on from bacteria in your saliva. This is important for maintaining a sterile environment for the tooth.
It prevents water, debris, or anything else from going down your throat. This protects a patient from ingesting contaminants, fillers, or even cleaning tools used during a root canal.
It keeps the treatment area dry. This allows many types of dental materials to bond properly.
It can protect the gag reflex area, and create a feeling of separation of the rest of your body from the treatment area. These last two advantages can be especially important for clients who need a root canal but suffer from dental phobia.
“We use rubber dental dams in our practice during root canals to ensure we meet the highest standards of safety and quality,” says Dr. Jacqueline Allen, who practices with the Phoenix Endodontic Group. “Our endodontists are happy to explain their advantages. We also can answer questions about the use of dental dams or any other aspect of a root canal if you have any anxiety or concerns.”