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5 Things You Need to Know About Air Abrasion

5 Things You Need to Know About Air Abrasion

1. Look Mom, No Drill

Who's not unnerved by the whine of a dentist's drill? The sound has become synonymous with all that we dislike about a trip to the dentist's office. How perfect might the world be if tooth decay was removed without the use of a conventional drill? Well, welcome to the perfect world: air abrasion. Also known as drill-less dentistry or microabrasion, this method was first tested back in the 1940s and, if not for the introduction of the high speed turbine, may just have caught on. Now, much-improved from over 60 years ago, air abrasion is being used by many dentists, with great results and lots of patient praise.

2. Cutting-edge Technology

So how, you might wonder, does air cut away tooth decay? When it's mixed with abrasive particles, compression and the principle of kinetic energy (energy of motion), that's how. Working like a small sandblaster, a machine propels a powerful stream of compressed air mixed with particles of aluminum oxide through the dentist's handpiece and onto the surface of the tooth. The area of decay is blasted with these tiny particles, which are then removed using suction.

3. Painless a Big Plus

Air abrasion has many advantages, not the least of which is it is virtually painless. So much so that an injection of Novocaine or the administration of nitrous oxide is not needed. The annoying sound and vibration of the dentist drill are absent. There's no longer a burning smell as a drill cuts through the tooth. Because of the precision of this method, there is also a substantial decrease in the amount of healthy areas of the tooth being removed. Possible chipping or microfracturing of the tooth is greatly reduced.

4. Taking a Bite Out of Air Abrasion

OK, so nothing's perfect, as much as it may sound like it is. While air abrasion has many advantages over that whining drill, there can be downsides. While pain is far less than when conventional means are used to remove decay, sensitivity to the particles used during the procedure can be an issue. Since the method leaves a smooth area when the decay is removed, only composite fillings can subsequently be used; amalgam or silver needs the rough edges left by a drill to be held into the tooth effectively.

5. Some Things to Chew On

It's important to know that air abrasion is used only on surface decay and not for deeper cavities nearer the pulp of the tooth. For those, the drill will still be needed, so don't expect the relative ease and quietness of air abrasion every time you have a cavity. Because of the power of the abrasion, soft tissue damage can result if a rubber dam is not placed on the surrounding areas. Finally, the procedure has other uses, such as preparing a tooth for bonding, removing discoloration and old composite fillings.

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