Air abrasion, also known as particle abrasion, was first used by dentists in the 1950’s. Only recently has the technology advanced and has been made more commercially available. For many years dentists have used the drill to clean out decay from the teeth. Air abrasion removes the decay, however if there is a cavity it will still need to be filled. It is best used as a preventative measure before cavities are present. After air abrasion has been used the composite material used for fillings, tends to stick better to the teeth as it is smoother.

Air abrasion uses compressed air with a stream of fine particles like silica, to remove decay from the surface enamel of the tooth. It can also be used for removing superficial stained areas on the tooth and roughen the tooth surface ready for bonding of tooth structures. Unlike the drill, the air abrasion eliminates the loud sound and vibration that you would normally have when using the drill. Many patients associate the noise of the drill with pain, so the air abrasion is perfect for young children and patients who suffer from anxiety.

In many cases there is no need for a local anesthesia when the air abrasion is used. Many patients dread the needle that is administered for the anesthesia prior to drilling. However it is not as effective for use with removal of large cavities or the old amalgam restorations.

It is necessary to isolate the tooth that is being worked on using a rubber dam. This is done by using either a thin sheet of silicone or latex. A high volume suction is used to keep the abrasive particles from being swallowed by the patient, as well as keep air born particles minimal.

Advantages of Air Abrasion

  • It does not vibrate or make a whining noise
  • The patient does not feel pressure on the tooth
  • More than one tooth can be done without discomfort on the same visit
  • It leaves more of the healthy tooth behind
  • It reduces the risk of fracturing or chipping the tooth
  • It can sometimes reduce the need of anesthesia especially if the cavity is shallow

Disadvantages of Air Abrasion

  • It is not recommended for deep cavities
  • It is can cause sensitivity and is not always pain free.
  • It is not suitable for removing hard enamel to access a cavity
  • It cannot be used to prepare crowns, or inlays/onlays