As restorative dentists, we are busy. Running an office, seeing patients, treatment planning, working with interdisciplinary teams, actually doing the treatment … there’s not a lot of time left over each day.
That's why I try to find ways to make my life easier, especially in the operatory. And one such way I do this is by using plumber's tape, which is also known PTFE tape, thread seal tape or, erroneously, TeflonTM tape (Chemours doesn't actually make a tape).
Plumber's tape has gained a lot of popularity in the dental office for multiple uses. It can be a versatile, user-friendly asset in the dental armamentarium. The tape is also very thin, adapts well to the surface of the tooth and prevents material from sticking to it.
Here are just four uses for plumber's tape that can simplify your work as a restorative dentist.
Obliteration of the Screw-access and Endo-access Holes
Many clinicians utilize plumber's tape as a means to obliterate screw-access holes in screw-retained implant supported restorations because of its ease of manipulation. In fact, because it does not tear and is easily manipulated, you can cut off a piece, roll it up and then obliterate the screw-access hole. It also simplifies removal if you need to go back into the screw hole and remove the screw.
The same process can be utilized for obliterating endo access. The endodontist can obliterate the access using plumber's tape to protect the patient in the time before their restorative treatment. I much prefer plumber's tape here over using cotton. As many restorative dentists can attest, cotton has fibers that don’t always allow for a clean removal. The plumber's tape, though, comes out beautifully – as if it was a cork in a bottle.
Use as a Retraction Cord
For the gingival retraction, you can once again cut and then roll a piece of plumber's tape and carefully tease it into the sulcus, just as if it was a retraction cord. In my experience, this allows for beautiful gingival retraction. I prefer plumber's tape here, too, because, just like using cotton for obliteration of access holes, retraction cord also has these threads that are sometimes hard to remove while you’re seating the restoration. With plumber's tape, it just peels off very, very cleanly.
Create Space/Insulate for Fabrication of a Mock-up
You can use plumber's tape as a separating media to fabricate either mock-ups or provisional restorations for veneers. When we’re planning to do a mock-up restoration or a provisional restoration for veneers, we normally utilize some type of separating media, such as petroleum jelly, on the buccal surfaces of the preps or teeth. But sometimes we have all kinds of different undercuts or diastemas that allow the material to lock in. If you use plumber's tape instead, you can tuck it around the tooth and it really manipulates very smoothly.
Another benefit here is that not only are you utilizing it as a means for a separating media but also, if you are using any material that may have an exothermal reaction, the plumber's tape works as an insulator. Also, it may work as a cement spacer if you’re fabricating a provisional or even a mock-up that you plan on cementing temporarily on the patient's teeth. The plumber's tape is very easy-to-place and, once you go ahead and seat your silicone matrix with your material of choice, the tape is very easily removed from the intaglio surface.
Isolate Teeth During Cementation
If you really want to do a great job when bonding ceramic veneers, such care must be exercised that you should either seat each veneer individually or, at the most, do two at the same time. Therefore, when you have multiple ceramic restorations that you want to seat, you will have preps that are pretty much unprotected. As you go through the bonding protocol, which means etching the preps and putting on the bonding agents to be able to ultimately seat the veneer, it’s almost next to impossible to avoid some of the etching substances or bonding agents to fly over to the adjacent teeth – where you don’t want to bond yet. plumber's tape will help you ensure those adjacent teeth are perfectly isolated so that, when it comes time to bond on top of them, there’s no debris or contamination on those surfaces.
Do you use plumber's tape in your dental practice? Use the comments section below to let me know how you put it to use!
(Click this link for more dentistry articles by Dr. Ricardo Mitrani.)
Ricardo Mitrani, D.D.S., M.S.D., Spear Faculty and Contributing Author