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Dentistry/How important is a dental dam?


Dear Dr. Backlund,

Thank you in advance for answering my question. I was wondering how important dental dams are in root canal therapy? I live in a country in which dental dams are not compulsory for root canal therapy. I have contacted all five dentists in my area and none of them use dental dams for root canal therapy. My current dentist, who will be performing the root canal, maintains that he does not use dental dams as he isolates affected teeth with gauze.

Would it be in my best interests to seek out an endodontist who uses a dental dam, or should the gauze be fine? Without a dental dam, should I be worried if I swallow files or bleach?

Thank you so much.

Hi James,

You are exactly right! Files and flushing liquids can easily be swallowed and are 2 of the main reasons we use rubber dams. It is also to keep the field as bacteria free as possible so nothing is introduced into the tooth as the root canal is being done. Here in the US, it is malpractice to do root canals without using a rubber dam. I would DEFINATELY try to find an endodontist that routinely uses them. Even in general dentistry, a dam is helpful for the same reasons as above. Most general dentists here use a rubber dam always to keep materials and liquids from going down the patient's throat.

Hope this helps.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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