Dental technology has greatly advanced over the last several decades. Part of this is a significant advancement in the tools and techniques available for dentists to help make treatment as comfortable as possible. This means a reduction in the usage of a classic dental drill and the introduction of methods like air abrasion in dentistry.
This treatment method is now used for many restorative dentistry procedures to help prepare the tooth. You may have heard it mentioned before, but if you are like many people, you may be asking yourself, what is it?
In this article, we dive into exactly what air abrasion is, when it’s usually used in dentistry, and the advantages and disadvantages of this treatment option.
What is Air Abrasion in Dentistry?
Air abrasion, sometimes also referred to as microabrasion, is a method of removing small areas of early tooth decay by using compressed air to spray a focused stream of tiny particles at the tooth’s surface. The particles are usually aluminum oxide, silica, or a mixture of baking soda.
The tool that the dentist uses during this procedure is essentially a miniature sandblaster. This stream of particles gently wears away the decayed material of the tooth without the friction of a traditional drill. While the air abrasion is being performed, the dental assistant will suction away the particles of decay.
Unlike the classic drill that dentists relied on for years, air abrasion does not produce the anxiety-inducing sound, vibration, or pressure.
When Air Abrasion is Usually Used
If you experience some level of anxiety at the thought of a traditional dental drill, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that air abrasion is now available for use in many procedures/treatments. This includes:
- Preparing a tooth for a filling by removing tooth decay (in this instance the abrasion is referred to as kinetic cavity preparation.)
- Preparing a tooth for dental sealants.
- Preparing a tooth for dental bonding.
- Removing old composite resin fillings.
- Gently removing superficial stains and discolorations on the tooth’s surface.
The Advantages of Using Air Abrasion
There are many advantages of using air abrasion in dentistry compared to the traditional drilling method, including:
- It generates no vibration, heat, burning smells, or vibration.
- More of the tooth’s healthy hard tissue is left behind.
- The need for anesthesia is sometimes reduced, especially if the cavity is shallow.
- The risk of chipping or fracturing the tooth is significantly reduced, which can extend the life span of the filling.
- Several teeth can be treated during one visit, saving both time and money.
- The procedure itself is relatively simple, though it may take slightly longer than traditional drilling does.
The Disadvantages of Air Abrasion
Though there are several very good advantages to using air abrasion in dentistry, there are a couple of disadvantages to be aware of as well:
- This procedure is not recommended for treating cavities between teeth or those that are deep and close to the pulp. Air abrasion is best for dealing with small cavities on the outer surface of the teeth.
- Air abrasion cannot be used if any of the tooth’s hard enamel needs to be removed to access the decay. In this case, a traditional drill would need to be used first and then air abrasion can then be used to clean the decay out.
- It is not always totally pain-free. For some, the abrasive particles and compressed air can cause some sensitivity.
The Safety of Air Abrasion
Overall, air abrasion is a safe and effective dental procedure. As a precaution, you will be given protective eyewear to use during the treatment to help prevent any eye irritation from the spray. Also, the dentist will either apply a protective resin to the nearby teeth and gums to protect areas that aren’t being treated or apply a rubber dam (a rubber sheet that is fitted around the tooth being treated to avoid unintentional wear of nearby healthy tooth surface). During the procedure, the dental assistant will suction the loose particles to prevent them from being inhaled into the lungs.
Is Air Abrasion Suitable for Everyone?
In many cases, yes! Air abrasion is a particularly great option for children who might be afraid of the needle, vibration, and noise of a regular drill. As mentioned above, it is also good for adults who suffer from dental anxiety when it comes to the use of a drill. But, air abrasion cannot be used in every treatment scenario. Deep cavities and crown or bridge preparation usually still require the use of a traditional dental drill.
It is important to note that there are some situations where air abrasion is not recommended due to the possibility of complications/aggravations caused by a small number of tiny particles not picked up by the suction. These include patients with:
- A severe dust allergy
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- A recent tooth extraction
- Open wounds in the oral cavity
- Recent subgingival caries removal
The best thing to do is speak with your dentist about air abrasion and if you may be a candidate for this treatment option.
Air Abrasion is a Great Treatment Option for Restorative Dentistry Procedures
Air abrasion is a highly effective and much more comfortable option when it comes to preparation for many restorative dentistry procedures. With tooth decay, it is important to address it as soon as possible. The longer decay is allowed to linger, the more difficult it will be to reduce the amount of damage done and the less chance that air abrasion is an option for you.
Here at Radomile Family Dental Care, we provide the comprehensive dental care needed to keep your teeth in their best shape. Our dentists are highly experienced in air abrasion for dentistry and can ensure any decay on your teeth is removed when using this state-of-the-art procedure.
If you have questions about air abrasion or if you are wondering if it may be a good option for you, we can help. Don’t hesitate to contact us and we can answer any questions you may have.