The effect of rubber dam on atmospheric bacterial aerosols during restorative dentistry

J Infect Public Health. 2017 Mar-Apr;10(2):195-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2016.04.014. Epub 2016 May 24.


Rotatory dental instruments generate atmospheric aerosols that settle on various surfaces, including the dentist's head. The aim of this study was to quantitatively assess bacterial contamination of the dentist's head and to evaluate whether it is affected by using a rubber dam. Senior dental students (n=52) were asked to wear autoclaved headscarves as collection media while performing restorative dental treatment with and without a rubber dam. Four points from each headscarf were swabbed for bacterial culture after 30min of operative work. Bacterial contamination was quantified by counting the colony-forming units. Regardless of the collection point, using a rubber dam was associated with more bacterial colony-forming units than not using a rubber dam (P=0.009). Despite its clinical value, the rubber dam seems to result in significantly higher aerosol levels on various areas of the dentist's head, requiring that dentists cover their heads with suitable protective wear.

Keywords: Aerosols; Clinical attire; Colony-forming units; Infection control; Rubber dam.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dentistry, Operative / methods*
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Rubber Dams*
  • Students, Dental
  • Young Adult


  • Aerosols