So I went into my local hardware store and asked for plumber's tape, commonly known as the brand name Teflon. The guy behind the counter says to me, “So you got some plumbing repairs?” I replied, “No, I need it for dentistry.”

Teflon has a number of uses besides preventing leaky pipes. For one thing, it’s great for covering the screws in implant abutments.

We’ve all had to remove an implant abutment that was covered over with cotton and cavit or composite. Nothing beats the smell of cotton that has been sitting under a crown for a few years. It’s one of the few stenches that make me gag a little.

The same holds true for endodontic accesses. For either application just place the tape over the screw or in the access opening then place composite over the tape. Of course there are options other than Teflon tape, such as pvs bite registration or sterile surgical sponges but those are all much pricier and I'm kind of frugal (aka cheap).

Another application for Teflon tape is to prevent resin cement from getting on the adjacent teeth when bonding in all ceramic crowns. Take the tape and stretch it nice and thin against the adjacent teeth. When stretched thin enough it will not impinge on the seating of the crown. I recommend trying the crown again after placing the tape to make sure you have it in a thin enough section. This will act as a barrier so the bonding agents don't get all over the adjacent teeth. It also keeps the cement from attaching to the neighboring teeth. The tape comes off, and then you floss the contact.

You can also use Teflon tape for anterior composites. This works very similar to the previous application. When trying to close a space in the anterior it can be difficult to get a matrix to stay stable against the neighboring tooth, especially if the distance is large. By placing Teflon on the contact area of the adjacent tooth you can sculpt your composite up against the inter-proximal contact without having to worry about keeping a matrix in place. Now just shape your embrasures and cure. When you floss the contact the tape comes right off like in the cementation protocol.

Teflon tape is an inexpensive tool to keep around for a variety of procedures. It also comes in handy if you have a leaky pipe.

Darin O'Bryan, DDS, Spear Visiting Faculty. [ www.onemorereasontosmile.com ]