Air abrasion is a great new dental innovation that allows dentists to perform a range of dental treatments without having to use a drill. The process works by having a device which acts like a tiny sandblaster spray away decay and other undesirables from your teeth. Air abrasion uses a stream of fine particles, which, when aimed at the decaying section of the tooth can remove small particles giving the tooth a thorough cleaning. The particles used in air abrasion are usually made of silica, aluminium oxide or a mixture of baking soda. These are propelled on to your teeth using compressed air or gas; the decaying particles are extracted as the air abrasion stream hits them before being suctioned away by your dentist.
Air abrasion has an excellent safety record but eye protection is often required to protect against eye irritation from the spray. Similarly, a rubber dam is commonly applied to the surrounding teeth so that areas which aren't scheduled for treatment won't be affected. There are a number of advantages when using air abrasion over the conventional method of drilling. As well as generating no heat, sound or pressure air abrasion can often eliminate the need for an anaesthetic, especially in the cases of shallow cavities. Air abrasion is much gentler than drilling so much more of the healthy tooth tissue remains after treatment. Because of the speed of the process, your dentist will be able to treat a number of sites in the mouth during a single session.
Air abrasion can also be used on a variety of other treatments. For a number of years, dentists have been using air abrasion to remove old composite restorations, although it's less effective on metallic restorations like amalgam fillings. Air abrasion can also prepare the surface of a tooth before it undergoes bonding and to remove light stains and discolorations.
Drawbacks of Air Abrasion
Although air abrasion can be used for a range of treatments, it's not ideal for everything and many dentists still opt for a drill when treating deep cavities which are near to the pulp of the tooth. It is ideal however for treating smaller cavities in the early stages of formation. Although vastly pain-free when compared to drilling, air abrasion isn't completely without discomfort. The air and abrasives used can sometimes cause sensitivity in patients. If you're undergoing air abrasion prior to a filling, then only composite materials can be used, as amalgam fillings will need drill based cuts to stay in place. Due to the specialist equipment and training available, air abrasion isn't available at every clinic, although it is becoming increasingly popular.