What is Air Abrasion in Dentistry?

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Air Abrasion is an alternative to a drill in preparing a tooth for a filling. We have been using this alternative procedure for some time and with many patients. We have never received a complaint about the process. Our patients find it a delightful alternative to drilling.

Air Abrasion works like a tiny sandblaster. It is used to remove decay in small areas of a tooth. It directs a slender stream of particles at the decayed portion of the tooth. The particles are typically a composite of silica, aluminum oxide, or baking soda. They are propelled by compressed gas or air. When the spray comes into contact with the tooth, it removes the particles of decay from the tooth. These particles are removed with suction.

Air Abrasion is safe for you and for your dental team. We wear protective eyewear, and we will ask you to do the same to prevent any irritation from the spray. To protect the teeth and mouth areas around the tooth we are treating, we surround the target tooth with a “rubber dam” (a rubber sheet that fits around the tooth) or with a protective resin that we apply to surrounding teeth and gums. Use of suction during the procedure prevents you from breathing in any of the particles. In fact, air abrasion is considered a form of “conservative dentistry.”

Here are the key facts you may want to know about using air abrasion.

  • Unlike a drill, air abrasion creates no heat, pressure, or vibration.
  • Use of air abrasion typically reduces the number of cases with the need for numbing or anesthesia.
  • Air abrasion can remove the decay while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Air abrasion reduces the risk of fracturing, chipping, or otherwise damaging the tooth. It is widely believed that this extends the life of the filling.
  • It may take a little bit longer to remove decay with air abrasion, but the process is quite simple.
  • The procedure is not always completely free of pain or sensitivity, but this is typically relatively minor.
  • Air abrasion is not recommended for deep cavities or for cavities between teeth.
  • Air abrasion cannot be used to remove hard enamel.
  • Air abrasion cannot be used to prepare teeth for crowns, onlays, and inlays.
  • The process if ideal for children and for people who are fearful of dental procedures and have minimal shallow decay.

In addition to this primary use of air abrasion, it can also be used to remove old composite restorations, to prepare the surface of a tooth for the application of a sealant or for bonding, and to remove discoloration of teeth due to damage or stains.

At Complete Dental Care of Salem, VA, we are pleased to offer air abrasion as an alternative to drilling in many cases. It is always our goal to preserve as much of the natural tooth as possible and to cause as little stress and pain as possible for our patients. If you have a child with an early-stage cavity or if you (or your child) are fearful of dental procedures, air abrasion might be the best approach to preparing your tooth for a filling. Ask me about air abrasion. I will be happy to explain why it may or may not be the best option for you. If appropriate, we are happy to use this process.