Aim To investigate the attitudes towards and use of rubber dam by Irish general dental practitioners.
Methodology A pre-piloted questionnaire was distributed amongst a group of 600 dentists randomly selected from the Irish Register of Dentists. Replies from dentists working in specialist practice or the hospital dental service were excluded. Dentists were surveyed in relation to their use of rubber dam during a variety of operative and root canal treatments, as well as their attitudes to the use of rubber dam in dental practice.
Results A total of 300 replies were considered from a total of 324 that were received. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents (n = 231) worked in general dental practice and 23% (n = 69) worked in the Irish Health Board/Community Dental Service. Rubber dam was 'never' used by 77% of respondents (n = 228) when placing amalgam restorations in posterior teeth, 52% (n = 147) when placing composite restorations in posterior teeth, and 59% (n = 177) when placing composite restorations in anterior teeth. Rubber dam was 'never' used by 39% of respondents (n = 114) when performing root canal treatment on anterior teeth; 32% (n = 84) when performing root canal treatment on premolar teeth; and 26% (n = 51) when performing root canal treatment on molar teeth. Fifty-seven per cent (n = 171) considered rubber dam 'cumbersome and difficult to apply', and 41% (n = 123) considered throat pack 'as good a prevention against inhalation of endodontic instruments as rubber dam'.
Conclusions Whilst rubber dam is used more frequently for root canal treatment than operative treatment, its use is limited. This presents quality issues, as well as medico-legal and safety concerns for both the profession and patients.