Air Abrasion: Dentistry without a Drill

Dr.Alan Wishneff Boca Raton Florida Dentist Dr. Alan Wishneff D.D.S.
Restorative Dentistry / Oral Health
July 28, 2014

Dentists today have many more tools that they can use to help keep their patient’s teeth clean and healthy than ever before. One of these techniques that dentists can use to remove tooth decay is known as air abrasion. This is a drill-less way of performing dental care on the teeth.

Air abrasion uses an instrument that works like a mini sandblaster to spray away decay from the teeth. The machine produces a fine stream of particles that are aimed at the decayed area of the tooth. These particles are made of silica, aluminum oxide or a baking soda mixture. Particles are propelled toward the surface of the tooth using compressed air or a gas that runs through a dental hand piece. The stream of particles strikes the decayed area on the tooth and removes them. The decayed pieces are then sucked away through a thin tube.

While this technique may sound different than the normal procedures, it is still a safe dental technique to use. Like with any procedure there are steps that are taken to assure that the patient and dentist are safe the entire time. Protective eye wear is worn to prevent the eyes from becoming irritated from the spray. A rubber dam (a rubber sheet that fits around the teeth) or protective resin are applied to nearby teeth and gums to protect areas of the mouth that aren’t being treated. The particles of decay are suctioned away to prevent them from being breathed into the lungs.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are many advantages to using air abrasion instead of the traditional drilling method.

  • There is no heat, sound pressure or vibrations. The sound of a drill can bring a lot of anxiety to patients.
  • It will reduce the need for anesthesia, especially when a cavity is shallow.
  • Leaves a lot more of the healthy tooth tissue behind.
  • Leaves the working area relatively dry. This is important during the placement of composite fillings.
  • Allows the dentist to treat multiple sites in the mouth during one visit.
  • Air abrasion is relatively simple and quick.

Like with any procedure or technique there can be some disadvantages.

  • Air abrasion is not completely pain free. The particles produced by the stream can cause sensitivity.
  • This procedure cannot be used on deep cavities or ones that are close to the tooth’s pulp. It is more ideal for removing decay in small cavities that have formed early on the surface of teeth.
  • For fillings, only composite filling material can be used, because it adheres well to the smooth surface created by the air abrasion. Amalgam or silver fillings require drill-based cuts to prevent the fillings from falling out.

More Info

Air abrasion is a great technique to be used on children and others who may be afraid of the drilling that is normally associated with a dental visit. It also works best when there is minimal decay.

Air abrasion is not only used to remove tooth decay. It removes some old composite restorations. But it doesn’t work for metallic restorations like silver amalgam fillings. It can prepare a tooth surface for a bonding solution or a sealant. It can also remove superficial tooth discolorations.

Most dental insurance plans and coverage policies vary widely. The best thing to do is to contact your provider and ask if air abrasion is covered. You can also ask your dental office and they will usually be able to check things out for you.

For more information about this topic or any other dental topic, contact Dr.Wishneff  at [email protected]  or call (561) 488-3111Dr. Alan Wishneff is a Boca Raton Dentist dedicated to bringing patients state-of-the-art dental care. As a cosmetic, family and restorative dentist, he helps patients enjoy a natural and healthy smile. He is trained in cosmetic dentistry, including porcelain veneers; advanced cosmetic bonding techniques; oral surgery; medical emergency procedures; advanced crown and bridge; advanced TMJ; implant dentistry; endodontics-root canals: utilization of most advanced dental materials. Dr, Wishneff and staff are dedicated to providing great smiles in Boca Raton for more than 30 years. After more than two decades of practicing dentistry in Boca Raton, Dr. Wishneff is more committed than ever to this community.

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