Dental dam

A dental dam or rubber dam (sometimes termed "Kofferdam"—from German), designed in the U.S. in 1864 by Sanford Christie Barnum,[1] is a thin, 6" square sheet usually latex or nitrile, used in dentistry to isolate the operative site (one or more teeth) from the rest of the mouth. It is used mainly in endodontic, fixed prosthodontic (crowns, bridges) and general restorative treatments. Its purpose is both to prevent saliva interfering with the dental work (e.g. contamination of oral micro-organisms during root canal therapy, or to keep filling materials such as composite dry during placement and curing), and to prevent instruments and materials from being inhaled, swallowed or damaging the mouth. In dentistry, use of a rubber dam is sometimes referred to as isolation.[2]

Dental dams may also be used as a safe sex technique to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during cunnilingus and other sexual activities.


Dental dam in place during a dental procedure.


Rubber dam isolation of upper left second premolar, held in place with a rubber dam clamp during endodontic therapy.

The dam is held over individual teeth or groups of teeth by appropriate rubber dam clamps over the anchor tooth. The tooth crown stands out from the rubber dam through individual holes made by a hole punch, isolating the tooth to be treated from the rest of the person's mouth which keeps the tooth dry and reduces risk of exposure to oral micro-organisms. An ink stamp is available to guide placement of the holes prior to application of the dam.[3]



Safe sex

Sometimes dental dams are promoted during safe sex campaigns, for use during cunnilingus and anilingus, especially for women who have sex with women.[15][16] However, they are rarely used by women who have sex with women for this purpose,[15][17][18] and there is no good evidence that their use reduces the risk of STI transmission in this group, including the risk of infection with human immunodeficiency virus.[18] After lubrication with a water-based lubricant, an unpunctured dental dam may be held over the vulva or anus, allowing oral stimulation of these areas without transmission of bodily fluids and direct physical contact.


  1. Elderton, R. J. (1971-02-01). "A modern approach to the use of rubber dam--1". The Dental Practitioner and Dental Record. 21 (6): 187–193. ISSN 0011-8729. PMID 5278933.
  2. Luca Martinelli, The rubber dam technique, Academia.
  3. Bun San Chong, Shanon Patel, Bhavin Bhuva, Rubber dam in clinical practice, ENDO (Lond Engl) 2008;2(2):131–141.
  4. Wang, Yan; Li, Chunjie; Yuan, He; Wong, May CM; Zou, Jing; Shi, Zongdao; Zhou, Xuedong (2016-09-20). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd009858.pub2. ISSN 1465-1858.
  5. Cochran, M. A.; Miller, C. H.; Sheldrake, M. A. (1989-07-01). "The efficacy of the rubber dam as a barrier to the spread of microorganisms during dental treatment". Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). 119 (1): 141–144. ISSN 0002-8177. PMID 2760346.
  6. Reid JS, Callis PD, Patterson CJ (1991). Rubber Dam in Clinical Practice (1st ed.). London: Quintessence Publishing.
  7. Tiwana, Karen K.; Morton, Teresa; Tiwana, Paul S. (2004-09-01). "Aspiration and ingestion in dental practice: a 10-year institutional review". Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). 135 (9): 1287–1291. ISSN 0002-8177. PMID 15493393.
  8. Cohen, S.; Schwartz, S. (1987-04-01). "Endodontic complications and the law". Journal of Endodontics. 13 (4): 191–197. doi:10.1016/S0099-2399(87)80139-5. ISSN 0099-2399. PMID 3471843.
  9. Harrel, Stephen K.; Molinari, John (2004-04-01). "Aerosols and splatter in dentistry: a brief review of the literature and infection control implications". Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). 135 (4): 429–437. ISSN 0002-8177. PMID 15127864.
  10. Kremers, L.; Halbach, S.; Willruth, H.; Mehl, A.; Welzl, G.; Wack, F. X.; Hickel, R.; Greim, H. (1999-06-01). "Effect of rubber dam on mercury exposure during amalgam removal". European Journal of Oral Sciences. 107 (3): 202–207. ISSN 0909-8836. PMID 10424384.
  11. Halbach, S.; Vogt, S.; Köhler, W.; Felgenhauer, N.; Welzl, G.; Kremers, L.; Zilker, T.; Melchart, D. (2008-05-01). "Blood and urine mercury levels in adult amalgam patients of a randomized controlled trial: interaction of Hg species in erythrocytes". Environmental Research. 107 (1): 69–78. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2007.07.005. ISSN 0013-9351. PMID 17767927.
  12. Stewardson, D. A.; McHugh, E. S. (2002-10-01). "Patients' attitudes to rubber dam". International Endodontic Journal. 35 (10): 812–819. ISSN 0143-2885. PMID 12406374.
  13. Hill, Edward E.; Rubel, Barry S. (2008-10-01). "Do dental educators need to improve their approach to teaching rubber dam use?". Journal of Dental Education. 72 (10): 1177–1181. ISSN 0022-0337. PMID 18923098.
  14. Sutton, J.; Saunders, W. P. (1996-09-01). "Effect of various irrigant and autoclaving regimes on the fracture resistance of rubber dam clamps". International Endodontic Journal. 29 (5): 335–343. ISSN 0143-2885. PMID 9206417.
  15. 1 2 Richters, J; Prestage, G; Schneider, K; Clayton, S (Jun 2010). "Do women use dental dams? Safer sex practices of lesbians and other women who have sex with women.". Sexual health. 7 (2): 165–9. doi:10.1071/SH09072. PMID 20465981.
  16. "Dental Dams | Sexually Transmitted Infections | Adults | - Your Link to Sexual Well-Being". 2006-12-15. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  17. Yap, L; Richters, J; Butler, T; Schneider, K; Kirkwood, K; Donovan, B (Jun 2010). "Sexual practices and dental dam use among women prisoners--a mixed methods study.". Sexual health. 7 (2): 170–6. doi:10.1071/SH09138. PMID 20465982.
  18. 1 2 Jonathan Zenilman, Mohsen Shahmanesh (2012). Sexually transmitted infections : diagnosis, management, and treatment. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 330. ISBN 9780763786755.
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