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AAE reminder: Dental dams help ensure patient safety

May 11, 2015

By Michelle Manchir


Dr. Glickman
The American Association of Endodontists reminds practicing dentists about the use of the dental dam, especially in endodontic procedures.

In endodontics, dental dams are placed to protect patients from aspirating or swallowing instruments, tooth debris, medicaments or irrigating solutions such as bleach, according to Dr. Gerald N. Glickman, past president of the American Board of Endodontics, the American Association of Endodontists and the American Dental Education Association.

Among the protections dental dam use can provide, according to Dr. Glickman, are:

  • A surgically clean operating field isolated from saliva, hemorrhage and other tissue fluids.
  • Reduction in risk of cross contamination of the root canal system.
  • Barrier to the potential spread of infectious agents.
  • Protection of soft tissues.
  • Improved visibility, providing a dry field and reducing mirror fogging.
  • Increased efficiency; minimizing patient conversation during treatment and the need for frequent rinsing.

"It's a protection for the practitioners, it's a protection for the patient, it's a safety issue – it's all those things," said Dr. Glickman about the use of dental dams.

According to the AAE position statement available at aae.org, "tooth isolation using the dental dam is the standard of care."  In addition, the statement goes on to note, "it is integral and essential for any nonsurgical endodontic treatment."

Dr. Glickman, who is also professor and chair of the Department of Endodontics and director of graduate endodontics at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, acknowledged that dam placement is often misconstrued as being tedious, but he said "it is relatively simple to place if you learn to do it properly."

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry cites rubber dam isolation during delivery of care in its policy on patient safety online as an example of a way dentists can protect patients' airways.