Air Abrasion

Air abrasion, known as “micro abrasion” and kinetic cavity preparation, is a method of tooth structure removal considered to be an effective alternative to the standard dental drill.

How does it work?

Air abrasion technology functions much like the sandblasting technique used to clear graffiti from walls. Likewise, a hand piece blows a powerful air stream of tiny, fine aluminum oxide particles out of its tip onto tooth structure. This technique uses the kinetic energy principle, in which particles bounce off the tooth and blasts the decay away.

Dentists commonly use this to prepare various types of cavities for restoration with composites. In addition, air abrasion is effective to repair cracks and discolorations, prepare tooth surfaces for bonding procedures, and perform additional procedures.

Air abrasion procedures can leave an accumulation of harmless, dusty particle debris in the patient’s mouth. As a result, a mouthwash rinse is used after the procedure. Your dentist may require you to wear protective glasses during the procedure. A rubber dam may be applied inside your mouth and around the tooth to serve as a particle barrier. To reduce dust buildup, the dentist or dental assistant may use a vacuum hose or a water spray technique while administering air abrasion.

What are the advantages?

Air abrasion procedures are virtually painless, which, in most cases, eliminates the need for an anesthetic injection. These systems produce no vibration and no heat from friction. The technology can’t harm soft mouth tissue and they operate very quietly. Because air abrasion cuts tooth surfaces with the utmost precision, it removes less tooth than the drill and it reduces the risk of enamel micro-fracturing. Advantages better preservation of your tooth, little or no discomfort, no anesthetic is necessary, and treatment time is usually shorter.

Is it suitable for everyone?

Yes. It is an especially good option for children who may be afraid of the needle, and the noise, and vibration of a regular dental drill. However, there are some treatments, like crown and bridge preparation, that still require the use of a dental drill. Air abrasion is not an alternative for every procedure.

Who will provide my treatment?

Your general dentist, who has been trained in restorative dentistry techniques, will perform any procedures that use air abrasion technology. Ask your dentist if he or she uses this equipment and if this technique is right for you.

Sources: “Air Abrasion Tooth Cutting: State of the Art 1998,” JADA, April 1998; “Advantages and Procedures Using Air Abrasion,” Ontario Dentist, March 1998; “Spraying Away Decay,” Dental Practice & Finance, March/April 1998; “The Pros and Cons of Micro Abrasion,” The Farran Report, May 1997; “Air Abrasion: A Second Look,” Journal of the Greater Houston Dental Society, Feb. 1997; “Cavity Preparation: Cutting or Abrasion?” JADA, Nov. 1996