Restorative dental treatments are used to repair damage to teeth caused by tooth decay or accidents. Creating a physical barrier around a treatment site to reduce contamination of the site with saliva is a common practice. Reducing the amount of saliva in the area may enable the materials used for repair to bond together more effectively, improving the performance and reliability of the restoration. It may also reduce exposure to bacteria in the mouth.
Two methods of creating a barrier are commonly used; either a rubber dam around the tooth or cotton rolls together with suction to remove excess saliva. The rubber dam method involves using a sheet of latex in a frame. A small hole is made in the sheet and it is placed over the tooth to be treated creating a barrier around it. Using a rubber dam can isolate the tooth from the rest of the person’s mouth, which allows the tooth to be repaired dry and with relatively less exposure to bacteria in the mouth. A common alternative method of isolation of the tooth is the use of cotton rolls combined with the removal of excess saliva by suction. The evidence on the effects of rubber dam usage versus cotton roll usage is conflicting. Continue reading