At first glance these things look and sound sketchy, I mean what is that rubber doing in the mouth. It’s not there to make you uncomfortable or to make you look foolish, it has a very important role to play. Rubber dams are latex (or non-latex nitrile) square sheets that are applied and attached to the tooth we are working on temporarily to prevent bacterial infection of the tooth. Rubber dams also prevent choking or inhalation of small dental instruments. Pediatric dentists use rubber dams quite often as they also help with managing the tongue and keeping it away from our drills and sharp instruments.
Root canal treatment should NEVER be done without the use of rubber dam. If your dentist is trying to do a root canal on you without a rubber dam, you should consider changing dentists as they are not complying with the standard of care. Root canal treatment is completed using sharp instruments that are small enough to fit in the small canals inside the tooth. Imagine having that instrument drop into your airway, that would be a medical emergency that is easily avoided with the use of a rubber dam.
While root canal treatments are being performed, the canals inside of the tooth are accessed through an opening made by your dentist. If the rubber dam is not in use, the canals are bathed by bacteria that is floating in saliva. Completing a root canal treatment without the use of a rubber dam is akin to cleaning a trashcan and while more trash is being dumped inside it.
You should consider visiting your local endodontist for all your root canal needs, as your endodontist is specialized in root canal treatments. Please do not allow any dentist to work on you without a rubber dam.
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Photo credit: By Fotograf: Alen Vlahovic, Gelsenkirchen, Germany – -, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66729