Dental technology advances continuously and brings increasingly more effective treatments into the clinic where they can benefit patients. As the technologies developed in the 2000s become cheaper, safer, and more available, the common dentist’s office is picking up some new tricks. Many mean more comfortable and faster procedures for you!
One best-of-both-worlds technology many dentists are excited about is air abrasion. This is a new way of dealing with small cavities and plaque that has a host of benefits. Watch for it the next time you go in for an operation or other procedure! Your dentist can, of course, explain more about what air abrasion is and what processes it is suitable for, but here is a quick guide to help you learn more about this latest innovation.
So What Is It?
Air abrasion uses a powerful, very tiny stream of air to blast away unwanted material from your teeth. If you have ever used a power-washing jet of water to strip paint or clean a concrete floor, you can understand how this system works. Of course, water has a little more force than air. Most air abrasion technologies increase the effectiveness of this powerful stream by adding in microscopic particles of aluminum oxide. These minuscule flecks provide extra scraping power without making the tool too powerful. Think of it as a strong air drill.
For normal plaque, those whirling dentist toothbrushes still work just fine. Air abrasion tools come out when you are facing a more complex process, such as a minor filling. The abrasion can power away decayed tooth matter and leave healthy enamel, creating enough room for dentists to fill in the spot with composite materials. If your dentist is using a bonding procedure to help support or heal teeth, the air abrasion drill may come out again to clean away stains and prepare a tooth surface, or potentially help seal a bonding problem.
Air abrasion is an excellent option for those who are easily nervous at the dentist’s office and hate the grinding of older drills. Children may especially benefit from smoother, quicker action.
Why Is It Good?
You may wonder what the difference is between a normal dentist drill and a blast of aluminum oxide particles. Not only is air abrasion a far more flexible tool than the old-fashioned dentist drill, but it is also far more comfortable and accurate. The vibration and forceful digging of the old drill requires anesthetic.
Air abrasion is mostly painless and requires no anesthetic at all! This means decreased wait times, no sprays or needles, and a bill that does not include expensive drugs – all key wins from the patient’s perspective.
Is it Dangerous?
Air abrasion presents very little danger to your mouth. If the dentist was to slip and shoot the stream at your eye, it could do some damage – which is why most dentists ask you to wear protective goggles during the process. However, the danger is not the same thing as pain. The air stream remains very powerful: If your teeth are especially sensitive or require significant work, you will probably feel some discomfort or pain.
Air abrasion is not used for deep, serious cavities, since they require drills to create a rough surface for the traditional filling. Air abrasion leaves teeth too smooth for metallic fillings.
After the air abrasion is finished, you may find that your teeth feel dirty, gummy, or dusty. This is just leftover particles, and your dentist will have your rinse out your mouth several times to remove them. If the procedure is lengthy, a suction device can help continuously remove the oxide particles and make the experience more comfortable.