Title:
Anatomically shaped sectional matrix band retainers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention comprises improved matrix band retainers for use in dental procedures. The matrix band retainers comprise a pair of tines that are anatomically configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth for holding a matrix band in proper alignment during a dental filling procedure and for keeping the matrix band retainer from slipping out of position. The tines may be curved and/or include a wedge-shaped portion to facilitate insertion of the tines into the interproximal spaces between two adjacent teeth. The matrix band retainers also comprise two apertures that are configured in size and shape to receive the prongs of a rubber dam clamp or other tine-spreading device for enabling the rubber dam clamp to spread the tines of the matrix band retainer in a safe and secure manner.



Inventors:
Bills, Dan J. (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Application Number:
09/838681
Publication Date:
10/24/2002
Filing Date:
04/19/2001
Assignee:
BILLS DAN J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
433/139, 433/155
International Classes:
A61C5/12; (IPC1-7): A61C5/04; A61C3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WILSON, JOHN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WORKMAN NYDEGGER & SEELEY (1000 EAGLE GATE TOWER, SALT LAKE CITY, UT, 84111, US)
Claims:

What is claimed and desired to be secured by United States Letters Patent is:



1. An apparatus for retaining a matrix band against a tooth comprising: a flexible member, and first and second tines connected by the flexible member, wherein each of said first and second tines comprises at least one of a curved body or a wedge-shaped body in order to facilitate retention of a matrix band within the interproximal spaces between a pair of adjacent teeth.

2. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein each of said first and second tines comprises a curved body, said body extending between a proximal end and a distal end.

3. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein each of said first and second tines comprises a wedge-shaped body having an angled edge portion that is oriented so as to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between the pair of adjacent teeth, said angled edge portion having an angle in the range of about 30° to about 90°.

4. An apparatus as defined in claim 3, wherein the wedge-shaped body comprises a substantially triangular cross-sectional area.

5. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the flexible member comprises two apertures extending therethrough, and wherein each of said apertures is configured to receive a prong of a tool that is used to bend the flexible member, such that the tool spreads the first and second tines apart.

6. An apparatus as defined in claim 5, wherein said tool is a rubber dam clamp.

7. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the flexible member comprises stainless spring steel.

8. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the distal end of at least one of either said first and second tines further comprises a foot.

9. An apparatus as defined in claim 8, wherein the foot protrudes away from the at least one of either the first and second tines towards the distal end of the other of the first or second tines.

10. An apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the flexible member comprises an arcuate member.

11. An apparatus as defined in claim 2, wherein said first and second tines are positioned substantially perpendicular to the flexible member.

12. An apparatus for retaining a matrix band against a tooth comprising: a flexible member interconnecting a first tine and a second tine, each of said first and second tines comprising a wedge-shaped body having an acutely-angled edge portion oriented so as to facilitate insertion of the wedge-shaped body into interproximal spaces between two adjacent teeth.

13. An apparatus as defined in claim 12, wherein each tine is further curved so as to more closely approximate the anatomy of the two adjacent teeth.

14. An apparatus as defined in claim 12, wherein said flexible member comprises two apertures extending through the flexible member, and wherein each of said two apertures is configured to receive a prong of a tool that is used bend the flexible member to increase a distance separating the first tine from the second tine.

15. An apparatus as defined in claim 12, wherein the acutely-angled portion has an angle in a range of about 30° to about 90°.

16. An apparatus for retaining a matrix band against a tooth comprising: a flexible member; first and second tines extending from the flexible member, each of said tines including: a proximal end connected to the flexible member; a distal end opposite the proximal end; and a curved body extending between the proximal and distal ends, said curved body being sized and shaped to approximately conform to the shape of interproximal spaces between two adjacent teeth.

17. An apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein the curved body of each of said first and second tines further includes a wedge-shaped cross-sectional area oriented to facilitate insertion of the curved body into the interproximal spaces.

18. An apparatus as defined in claim 17, wherein the wedge-shaped cross-sectional area includes an angled edge having an angle in a range of about 30° to about 90°.

19. An apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein said flexible member comprises two apertures extending through the flexible member spaced and configured so as to receive corresponding prongs of a tine-spreading device.

20. An apparatus as defined in claim 19, wherein the tine-spreading device is a rubber dam clamp.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. The Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention is in the field of matrix band retainers for use in dental procedures. In particular, the present invention relates to matrix band retainers that are configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth to hold a matrix band in proper placement during dental filling procedures. More particularly, the matrix band retainers of the present invention are preferably anatomically configured to conform to the shape of teeth.

[0003] 2. The Prior State of the Art

[0004] In the field of dentistry, dental practitioners often treat patients who have developed cavities in a tooth. In order to treat cavities the dental practitioner removes the infected portion of the tooth and then deposits a filling material such as a composite, a resinous material, or an amalgam into the tooth preparation.

[0005] During the dental filling procedure, a matrix band is typically placed against the side of the tooth to approximately define the desired shape of the restored tooth and to keep the filling material from flowing beyond the desired tooth boundary. A matrix band typically comprises a thin metallic or plastic strip that is flexible and can be bent around the tooth being restored. The matrix band is particularly useful because it provides form for the desired shape of the resultant filling. However, if the matrix band is not properly held in place then too much or too little filling material may be deposited into the tooth preparation, thereby distorting the configuration of the restored tooth.

[0006] An improper filling can lead to dental discomfort, misaligned teeth, capture of food particles, infections, and other dental problems. To avoid these problems and to fix a distorted dental filling, it may be necessary to grind or drill the filling material down to the proper shape. It is desirable, however, to avoid this process because it increases the time and cost of performing the filling procedure and can create anxiety and discomfort for the patient.

[0007] In order to place the matrix band into a desired placement, it is sometimes necessary to separate the teeth by placing small dental wedges in the interproximal spaces between the teeth. One inherent problem with the use of matrix bands and dental wedges, however, is that they are susceptible to moving and slipping out from between the teeth. In an attempt to avoid this problem, dental practitioners have used clamps, commonly known as matrix band retainers, to hold the matrix band and dental wedges in place during the filling procedure.

[0008] Conventional matrix band retainers consist of a rigid, cylindrical wire bent so as to have a generally circular body and one of two generally straight tines extending perpendicularly from each end of the circular body. During use, the tines are spread open and placed in the interproximal spaces between the tooth being repaired and an adjacent tooth. One problem with such matrix band retainers is that the tines do not anatomically conform to the shape of the teeth. This results in inadequate retention of the matrix band such that the matrix band in an anatomically correct conformation. In addition, such matrix bands can easily slip out of position.

[0009] Another problem concerns the initial placement of the conventional matrix band retainer. The flexible frame or body of conventional matrix band retainers is typically a rigid, cylindrical wire that has been bent to have a generally circular configuration. The rigidity of the wire helps create a strong, spring-like action. It also, however, makes it difficult to spread the tines apart by hand.

[0010] To provide additional leverage to spread the tines apart, conventional rubber dam clamps may be used to spread the tines by flexing or bending the flexible frame or body of the matrix band retainer. Although rubber dam clamps can be used to spread the tines apart, existing matrix band retainers are not specifically configured to receive the prongs of the rubber dam clamp. Accordingly, the use of a rubber dam clamp to spread the tines can be unsafe. For example, it has been found that the matrix band retainer can slip off the prongs of the rubber dam clamp, making the procedure both difficult and unsafe.

[0011] Accordingly, there is currently a need in the art for improved matrix band retainers that are configured to better fit within the interproximal spaces between teeth so as to better hold matrix bands in desired and proper placement during dental procedures. It would also be desirable to provide improved matrix band retainers that are specifically configured to more securely and reliably receive the prongs of a conventional rubber dam clamp or other spreading tool. Such improved matrix band retainers are disclosed and claimed herein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] The present invention is directed to improved matrix band retainers for use in dental filling procedures. The matrix band retainers of the invention comprise tines that are anatomically configured in size and shape to better fit within the interproximal spaces between teeth for providing increased contact with the surfaces against which the matrix band retainer is placed. Such matrix bands are better able to retain a matrix band in an anatomically correct configuration during a dental filling procedure. The matrix band retainers of the invention are also specifically configured to more securely receive the prongs of a rubber dam clamp for spreading the tines of the matrix band retainer in a safe and secure manner.

[0013] In one preferred embodiment of the invention, the matrix band retainer comprises two tines that are connected to an arcuate member comprising stainless spring steel. Each tine comprises a curved and/or wedge-shaped body that is anatomically configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth.

[0014] In a first embodiment, the tines are curved so as to approximate the curvature of teeth, typically molars or bicuspids. In this manner, each tine provides an anatomical bearing surface that urges the matrix band to better conform to the shape of the tooth being restored, particularly, the outer curved surface of the tooth.

[0015] In the same or alternative embodiment, the tines may be approximately wedge-shaped so that an acutely angled edge portion of each tine can be inserted more deeply into the corresponding interproximal space between the tooth being filled and an adjacent tooth. The acutely angled edge portion is generally defined by a pair of opposing sides that intersect at a predetermined edge angle. The predetermined edge angle between the sides is preferably within the range of about 30° to about 90°, with a more preferred range of about 45° to about 75°, and a most preferred angle of about 60°.

[0016] According to a preferred embodiment, the flexible member also comprises means for securely receiving the prongs of a rubber dam clamp. An example of such means is a pair of apertures extending through the body member. During use, the prongs of a rubber dam clamp are inserted into the apertures and a spreading force is applied with the rubber dam clamp, causing the member to flex outwardly and the tines to spread apart. Once the tines are sufficiently spread apart they are placed into the interproximal spaces between the matrix band and adjacent tooth. The rubber dam clamp is removed and the spring-back force of the arcuate member effectively holds the matrix band in an appropriate placement for providing form for receiving a dental filling.

[0017] One benefit of the invention is that it generally enables the tines of the matrix band retainer to be spread apart with a rubber dam clamp in a safe and secure manner. The invention also generally provides tines that are anatomically configured to be more easily inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth for providing increased contact between a matrix band and the tooth being filled so as to urge the matrix band into a more anatomically correct configuration, while reducing the likelihood that the matrix band retainer will slip out of its holding position.

[0018] These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by practicing the invention as set forth below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] A more extensive description of the present invention, including the above-recited features and advantages, will be rendered with reference to the specific embodiments that are illustrated in the appended drawings. Because these drawings depict only exemplary embodiments, the drawings should not be construed as imposing any limitation on the present invention's scope. As such, the present invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through use of the accompanying drawings in which:

[0020] FIG. 1A is a side view of a tooth having a cavity and two adjacent teeth;

[0021] FIG. 1B is a top view of the tooth of FIG. 1A and two adjacent teeth;

[0022] FIG. 1C is a top view of the tooth of FIG. 1A with a hollowed out dental preparation existing in the general area of the cavity of FIG. 1B and a matrix band placed between the tooth having the dental preparation and an adjacent tooth;

[0023] FIG. 2 is a top perspective view of one embodiment of the a matrix band retainer of the invention that includes two tines having curved and wedge-shaped bodies which are connected by a flexible member;

[0024] FIG. 3 is a top view of one embodiment of the matrix band retainer of the invention that includes two apertures that are configured to receive the prongs of a rubber dam clamp;

[0025] FIG. 4 is a front view of one embodiment of the matrix band retainer of the invention that comprises two tines that each have a curved body;

[0026] FIG. 5 is a front view of one embodiment of the matrix band retainer of the invention that comprises two tines, each having a curved body and a protruding foot which generally points towards the foot of the alternate tine;

[0027] FIG. 6 is front view of two teeth and two tines positioned in the interproximal spaces between the teeth;

[0028] FIG. 7A is a top view of one embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention that has a cross-sectional area resembling a right triangle that is inserted within the interproximal space between two adjacent teeth;

[0029] FIG. 7B is a top view of one embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention that has a cross-sectional area resembling an equilateral triangle that is inserted within the interproximal space between two adjacent teeth;

[0030] FIG. 7C is a top view of one embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention that has a cross-sectional area resembling a cone that is inserted within the interproximal space between two adjacent teeth; and

[0031] FIG. 7D is a top view of one embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention that has a cross-sectional area resembling a square that is inserted within the interproximal space between two adjacent teeth; and

[0032] FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of the matrix band retainer of the invention positioned about two teeth with the tines of the matrix band retainer inserted within the interproximal spaces between the teeth, while holding a matrix band in place against one of the teeth that has a hollow dental preparation suitable for receiving a filling material.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0033] The present invention relates to improved matrix band retainers for use in dental filling procedures. More particularly, the present invention relates to matrix band retainers having tines that are anatomically configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth for holding a matrix band in proper placement against a tooth receiving a dental filling. The matrix band retainers of the invention are also preferably configured to receive the prongs of a rubber dam clamp for spreading the tines in a safe and secure manner.

[0034] In order to clarify and define the terms that are used in the present application, FIGS. 1A-1C are provided. FIG. 1A shows a side view of a tooth 10 having a cavity 12 and adjacent teeth 14 and 16. As shown, an interproximal space 30 exists between tooth 10 and each of the adjacent teeth 14 and 16. The term “interproximal space,” as used herein, should be generally construed to include any space between two adjacent teeth, including spaces existing proximate the gingiva, lingual surfaces, buccal surfaces, labial surfaces, and any other space existing between two adjacent teeth.

[0035] FIG. 1B shows a top view of the teeth of FIG. 1A. As shown, an interproximal space 30 exists between tooth 10 and each of the adjacent teeth 14 and 16.

[0036] FIG. 1C illustrates a dental preparation or hollow 32 formed within tooth 10. Dental preparation 32 is created by removing portions of tooth 10 with a drill or another suitable device. Typically, a dental preparation is formed to remove infected and damaged portions of a tooth, such as cavity 12 of FIG. 1B. Once a dental preparation is formed, a matrix band is placed against the tooth for providing form for receiving a filling material within the dental preparation. FIG. 1C illustrates how a matrix band 34 might be placed between two adjacent teeth in preparation for receiving a dental filling. In order to place matrix band 34, conventional dental wedges (not shown) may optionally be used to further separate teeth 10 and 14 if needed. The matrix band retainers of the present invention may be used to retain any thin, flexible matrix band in place in a more anatomically correct fashion. Anatomical matrix bands that better conform to the shape of teeth are set forth in co-pending U.S. application Ser. No., ______ filed Apr. 19, 2001 and entitled “Anatomically Contoured Matrix Bands for Use in Dental Restoration Procedures”. For purposes of disclosure, the foregoing application is incorporated herein by reference.

[0037] Although dental filling procedures requiring the use of matrix band retainers are generally limited to the restoration of bicuspids and molars, it should be appreciated that the present invention is not limited to any particular dental procedure nor to the application of a dental procedure to any particular type of tooth.

[0038] Turning now to FIG. 2, one presently preferred embodiment of a matrix band retainer 40 of the invention is illustrated. As shown, a first tine 50 and a second tine 60 are connected together by a flexible and resilient arcuate member, designated as member 70. The first and second tines 50 and 60 comprise proximal ends 52 and 62, respectively, which are attached to member 70, and opposing distal ends 54 and 64, respectively. The first and second tines 50 and 60 also comprise bodies 56 and 66 that extend between proximal ends 52 and 62 and distal ends 54 and 64, respectively.

[0039] In one embodiment, member 70 and tines 50 and 60 are formed by shaping a single piece of generally rigid wire. In one presently preferred embodiment, matrix band retainer 40 comprises stainless spring steel for providing member 70 with flexibility and resiliency. It should be appreciated, however, that any appropriate material can be used to form matrix band retainer 40 and corresponding components. Suitable materials can include metals, plastics, and flexible ceramics. In the present embodiment, member 70 also comprises twisted segments 72 and 74 which are formed by twisting tines 50 and 60 perpendicular to member 70 during manufacture of the matrix band retainer 40.

[0040] Member 70 also preferably comprises two apertures 76 and 78 which extend completely through member 70. In one preferred embodiment, apertures 76 and 78 are rounded and are specifically configured in size and shape to receive the prongs of a rubber dam clamp. During use, the prongs of a rubber dam clamp are inserted into apertures 76 and 78 and a spreading force is applied with the rubber dam clamp that forces member 70 to bend outwardly, causing tines 50 and 60 to spread apart. Once tines 50 and 60 are sufficiently spread apart they can be inserted into the interproximal spaces existing between a tooth and a matrix band for holding the matrix band in proper placement for receiving a dental filling, as will be shown and described in reference to FIGS. 6 thru 7D.

[0041] FIG. 3 is a top view of a matrix band retainer according to the present embodiment. As shown, member 70 has a generally curved shape and resembles a C-ring. This is merely illustrative, however, and should not be construed as a limitation. In particular, member 70 can embody virtually any shape so long as it is appropriately configured for use in dental procedures and provides the desired spring-back force. For example, in one alternative embodiment, member 70 comprises a substantially rectilinear shape.

[0042] FIG. 4 is a front view of one embodiment of the matrix band retainer of the invention in which tines 50 and 60 comprise curved bodies 56 and 66, respectively. The curvature of tine bodies 56 and 66 is formed by bending tines 50 and 60 during a manufacturing process. The exact radius of the curvature can be predetermined and may vary from one embodiment to another for enabling the matrix band retainer to conform to the size and shape of different teeth. It should also be appreciated that the radius of curvature of tine body 56 can vary from the radius of curvature of tine body 66. In one presently preferred embodiment, however, the radius of curvature for each of the tine bodies 56 and 66 is the same and is approximately ½ inch. The curvature of tine bodies 56 and 66 is such that when tines 50 and 60 are inserted in the interproximal spaces between teeth, proximal and distal ends 52, 62, 54, and 64 make contact with the surfaces against which the tines 50 and 60 are placed. It should be appreciated that curved tines 50 and 60 more closely approximate the tooth anatomy than do straight tines. Because tines 50 and 60 are curved, they are able to tightly wrap around the teeth against which they are placed, thereby holding the matrix band retainer in place and urging the matrix band into a more anatomically correct configuration against the side of the tooth being restored.

[0043] The shape and size of the tines can vary to accommodate the anatomical shape of any tooth. In some instances, the base of the exposed tooth, near the gingiva, is recessed significantly. In these instances, for example, the distal end of the tine may optionally be configured with a protruding foot, as illustrated in FIG. 5, for providing additional contact with the tooth surface against which the tine is placed.

[0044] As shown in FIG. 5, distal ends 54 and 64 include feet 54B and 64B, respectively. Feet 54B and 64B extend away from their respective distal ends 54 and 64 towards the alternate distal end 54 or 64. The configuration of feet 54B and 64B and the curvature of the tine bodies 56 and 66 generally approximate the anatomical shape of the interproximal spaces between teeth, such that when tines 50 and 60 are inserted into interproximal spaces, feet 54B and 64B and bodies 56 and 66 make contact with matrix band and tooth surfaces from within the interproximal spaces between the teeth. This feature of the invention is useful because it substantially secures the matrix band retainer in the latitudinal direction, reducing the likelihood that the matrix band retainer will slip out of place, and enables the matrix band retainer to urge the matrix band into an anatomically correct configuration against the surface of the tooth that is being restored during the dental filling procedure.

[0045] FIG. 6 further illustrates how the tines of the matrix band retainer of the invention are anatomically configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth. By way of comparison, a straight tine 86 and a curved tine 88 are placed in interproximal spaces 30 between tooth 10 and adjacent tooth 14. Like most bicuspids and molars, teeth 10 and 14 have profiles that are generally rounded and trapezoidal.

[0046] Curved tine 88, which is one embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention, is curved so as to be anatomically configured to the shape of the interproximal spaces 30 between teeth 10 and 14. As shown, curved tine 88 makes contact with the surface of tooth 10 over a region that substantially extends the entire length of curved tine 88. Contact region 92 shows the region of contact that curved tine 88 makes with tooth 10. Curved tine 88 also makes similar contact with adjacent tooth 14. When a matrix band is placed between curved tine 88 and tooth 10 then curved tine 88 urges the matrix band into an anatomically correct configuration against the surface of tooth 10 for providing form for receiving a dental filling.

[0047] Straight tine 86, which is another embodiment of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention, has a cross-sectional area that is anatomically configured to be inserted into the interproximal spaces 30 between teeth 10 and 14. The cross-sectional shape of straight tine 86 is generally wedge-shaped and enables straight tine 86 to be inserted securely into the interproximal spaces between teeth.

[0048] FIGS. 7A-7D show four embodiments of the tine of the matrix band retainer of the invention in which each of the tines 100, 110, 120, and 130 is configured with a wedge-shaped body.

[0049] FIG. 7A illustrates a tine 100 comprising a cross-sectional area that generally resembles a right triangle. An acutely angled edge 132 of tine 100 exists between contact surfaces 136 and 138 and has an angle is defined by the orientation of contact surfaces 136 and 138. According to this embodiment, acutely angled edge 132 has an angle 134 of about 30°. The term “about”, as used in the specification and appended claims, is generally defined as ±10°.

[0050] Contact surface 136 is biased against the surface of tooth 10 while contact surface 138 is biased against the surface of matrix band 140. It should be appreciated that the wedge-shaped body of tine 100 enables contact surfaces 136 and 138 to make better contact with the surfaces of matrix band 140 and tooth 10 then they could make if tine 100 were round. Tine 100 is a practical embodiment for use in circumstances when the interproximal spaces between teeth are narrow and deep.

[0051] FIG. 7B illustrates another embodiment of the tine of the present invention. As shown, tine 11O has a cross-sectional area approximating an equilateral triangle. An acutely angled edge 142 of tine 110 exists between contact surfaces 146 and 148. In this embodiment, acutely angled edge 142 has an angle 144 of about 60°. Contact surface 146 is biased against the surface of tooth 1O while contact surface 148 is biased against the surface of matrix band 140. Tine 110 is a practical embodiment for use in circumstances when the interproximal spaces between teeth are shallow and wide.

[0052] In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 7C, tine 120 has a cross-sectional area that is substantially triangular and resembles a cone with rounded backside 150. An acutely angled edge 152 of tine 120 exists between contact surfaces 156 and 158. In this embodiment, acutely angled edge 152 has an angle 154 of about 60°. Contact surface 156 is biased against the surface of tooth 10 while contact surface 158 is biased against the surface of matrix band 160. This embodiment is preferred in some circumstances because the rounded backside 150 of tine 120 provides a smooth surface against which the patient's tongue or cheek can come in contact without becoming agitated.

[0053] In yet another embodiment, shown in FIG. 7D, tine 130 has a square cross-sectional area. An acutely angled edge 162 of tine 130 exists between contact surfaces 166 and 168. According to this embodiment, acutely angled edge 162 has an angle 164 of 90°. Contact surface 166 is biased against the surface of tooth 10 while contact surface 168 is biased against the surface of matrix band 140. This embodiment may be preferred for manufacturing reasons.

[0054] It should be appreciated that because the wedge-shaped design of the tines shown in FIGS. 7A-7D enables the tines to be inserted deep into the interproximal spaces between the teeth, thereby securing the matrix band retainer in the latitudinal direction. The predetermined edge angle formed by the junction of the contact surfaces of the wedge-shaped tine is preferably within the range of about 30° to about 90°, with a more preferred range of about 45° to about 75°, and a most preferred angle of about 60°.

[0055] The wedge-shaped tine is also useful for providing flat contact surfaces that frictionally engage the surfaces against which the tine is placed, thereby keeping the matrix band retainer in a desired position, without slipping, and urging the matrix band to conform to the shape of the tooth against which it is placed. In other embodiments, not shown, the contact surfaces comprise contours that better approximate the generally round circumference of a tooth and provide even more frictional contact and holding capabilities.

[0056] It should be appreciated that although the tines have been shown in certain embodiments to comprise specific shapes that the tines of the matrix band retainer of the present invention are not limited to any predefined shape. Instead, the tines can comprise any shape that is configured to conform to the anatomical shape of teeth and to be inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth. In some embodiments, this is accomplished by providing tines that are curved. In other embodiments, this is accomplished by providing tines that are wedge-shaped. In yet other embodiments, this is accomplished by providing tines that are both curved and wedge-shaped.

[0057] Although certain figures of the application illustrate tines of the matrix band retainer inserted within the interproximal spaces between teeth comprising bicuspids and molars, it should be appreciated that the invention is not limited to the practice of dental procedures to any particular type of tooth. Accordingly, the tines of the matrix band retainer of the invention can also be appropriately configured to conform to the anatomical shape of the interproximal spaces between cuspids, laterals, and centrals.

[0058] Furthermore, it should also be appreciated that references to tines of the matrix band retainer being inserted into the interproximal spaces between a matrix band and an adjacent tooth are only illustrative and not restrictive. In particular, the tines of the matrix band retainer of the invention can be placed into the interproximal spaces between two adjacent matrix bands, or between a tooth and a dental wedge, or between a dental wedge and a matrix band, or between two dental wedges, or between any combination of the foregoing and any other device that is used for dental procedures involving the use of a matrix band retainer.

[0059] For example, as shown in FIG. 8, matrix band retainer 40 can also be used to hold a matrix band 170 in a desired placement against a tooth 180 for providing form for filling a hollow dental preparation 172 with a filling material. According to the present embodiment, tines 50 and 60 of matrix band retainer 40 are both curved and wedge-shaped. As shown, tines 50 and 60 are inserted within the interproximal spaces between teeth 180 and 190. From this position, tines 50 and 60 apply a direct contact force to matrix band 170, thereby holding matrix band 170 in a desired placement.

[0060] The invention, as it has been described herein, generally enables a matrix band retainer to be conformingly inserted into the interproximal spaces between teeth. The invention also enables the tines of the matrix band retainer to be spread apart by using a rubber dam clamp in a secure and safe manner. It should be appreciated that these benefits of the invention are advantages over the prior art.

[0061] It should also be appreciated that the present invention may be embodied in other forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. As properly understood, the preceding description of specific embodiments is illustrative only and in no way restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims as follows.