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).

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Multiple examples of adjacent teeth isolation prior to bonding procedures.

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

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Plumber's tape is utilized to obliterate the screw-access hole for this provisional restoration.
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Just like the image above, plumber's tape is utilized to obliterate the screw-access hole for this provisional restoration.

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

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Plumber's tape can be rolled and utilized as gingival retraction media.

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

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Once the teeth have been prepared, individual pieces of plumber's tape are wrapped around each prep prior to the seating of the silicone matrix for mock-up/provisional restorations.
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Intraoral and extraoral view of provisional restorations.
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Prep guide, retraction cords and impression are made in order to fabricate the ceramic veneers.

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

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Plumber's tape is utilized to isolate the adjacent teeth during the bonding procedures.
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Before and after images of the ceramic veneers.
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Final ceramic restorations in place.

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

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Commenter's Profile Image Carlos M.
August 3rd, 2016
Ricardo you are a big CRACK........Thank,s for this article..........congratulations
Commenter's Profile Image Ryan B.
August 4th, 2016
I use it to cover the implant screws like explained here but definitely like the other uses. Love the other ideas esp the veneer cementation suggestion.
Commenter's Profile Image Omar V.
August 4th, 2016
Also very useful when doing side by side class II's and when trying to close the gingival floor of your box when filling a class II. Love it!
Commenter's Profile Image Bryan B.
August 5th, 2016
Like Omar said, but any class II that has a little gap at the gingival floor.
Commenter's Profile Image Stephen U.
October 17th, 2016
How do you "process" the tape to make it clean/sterile for intraoral use? This came up in one of our study clubs starting with the discussion NEVER put in your record "plumbers tape" or "teflon tape" as if it became a medial/legal issue you are going to have a problem. I document it as "implant tape" but wondered how people autoclave it.
Commenter's Profile Image Eric M.
October 17th, 2016
I had never considered the use of PTFE tape to create a luting space for a provisional restoration. I usually have to use a diamond bur to "hog out" a cement space but its hard to create a uniform space this way. I think I'll start wrapping my preps with tape prior to seating the silicone provisional matrix. Thanks for the nice article!
Commenter's Profile Image Michael S.
January 25th, 2019
I use it regularly for contouring sectional matrix between the band and the clamp. It can be very useful to contour enbrasure form and contour in cases where the band/clamp have trouble adapting.
Commenter's Profile Image Joel G.
January 28th, 2019
Plumber tape can also be used to plug up big interproximal spaces to reduce impression material locking in.