A rubber dam (or dental dam) is used in our practice routinely during root canal treatments, which is sometimes the ideal treatment for tooth pain or tooth infection. Sometimes it is also used when we do fillings.
It was invented in the 1800’s and is used mainly to keep the mouth and tooth isolated from each other. When we do root canal treatments we use an irrigation (cleaning) solution that doesn’t taste great and can have a small effect on the soft tissues so the rubber dam helps protect the mouth from it. Similarly to protecting the mouth, we want to protect the tooth we are treating from anything touching it or going into it. During a root canal treatment, your tooth is opened and we don’t want any saliva or bacteria going into it to keep it clean and healthy.
In the case of fillings, sometimes there is a tooth that is very hard to keep dry when we are placing our filling material, so we choose to use a rubber dam to achieve isolation. This is important because we need the tooth to be absolutely dry when doing composite fillings to avoid tooth pain or biting pain afterward.
So while it looks funky, it is actually very comfortable and helps us do a great job!