Air abrasion is a new micro-dentistry technique that is used to treat tooth decay and prepare teeth for restorations. Traditionally, dentists used dental drills to remove decay and prepare the teeth for fillings, but air abrasion has proven to be a noiseless, heatless, minimally invasive alternative. Air abrasion is similar to sandblasting, in that tiny particles are propelled toward small areas of decay to remove them. A filling is then applied to seal the tooth from further harm. The technique works well on very shallow cavities - not so well on medium to large areas of decay. For moderate cavities, an anesthetic is still required along with drilling.
An anesthetic is not usually required for this procedure, which means the dentist can treat multiple teeth in a single appointment. The goal of air abrasion is to pinpoint and remove early areas of decay, while preserving more of the natural tooth. The combination of air abrasion and composite resin fillings quickly and comfortably restores functionality and strength to the teeth.
Here are some of the main advantages associated with air abrasion:
More of the natural tooth is left untouched.
No need for anesthesia in most cases.
No vibrations, horrible noises or excessive pressure.
Quicker, easier procedures.
Reduced risk of further damage to the teeth (chipping and fractures).
Teeth are left dry, which is advantageous for filling placement.
Who can benefit from air abrasion?
As with many dental procedures, air abrasion is not necessarily suitable for every person. The best candidates for air abrasion are patients who are fearful of the dental drill, children, and individuals with minimal dental decay. Unfortunaely, often times once the decay is explored, it is found to be too deep to remove entirely by air abrasion. In such cases, the dentist will need to numb the tooth and use the dental drill to complete the cavity removal. Regular dental check ups help diagnose cavities which may be forming on the surfaces of the teeth. Spotting cavities early increases the chances that the air abrasion treatment can be utilized.
Air abrasion can be used in instances other than tooth decay, including the removal of existing composite fillings, the preparation of teeth for sealants and the removal of surface stains on teeth. Amalgam and silver fillings cannot be used in conjunction with air abrasion because the procedure leaves the teeth too smooth for metal fillings to properly adhere. Therefore, only composite fillings can be applied following air abrasion.
What is involved with the air abrasion procedure?
Initially, the dentist will thoroughly examine the teeth and assess whether the air abrasion technique is going to be the most effective option. Once this has been decided, the procedure can be scheduled.
First, rubber dams and cotton balls will be used to segregate the teeth and ensure the adjacent teeth are not affected. Under specialized lighting and magnification, the teeth will be sprayed with particles including aluminum oxide, and silica. Jets of compressed air delivered through a dental hand-piece, provide enough force for the particles to remove the decay. The waste will be eliminated from the mouth with a suction device.
The dentist will use a special red chemical dye to ensure that all traces of decay are gone. An acid solution will then be applied to the affected areas to roughen the surface enough for the filling to be placed successfully. The composite filling will be hardened using specialized lights, then polished to make it look completely natural.
If you have questions about the air abrasion process, please ask your dentist.