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Air Abrasion: Pain-free Dentistry

Updated: Mar 17

Air abrasion was invented in the 1940's, as an answer to the age old challenge of making dental care treatment as humane and as painless as possible. It has survived all these years with limited usage but has recently made a tremendous comeback since the numbers of bonded fillings has increased. Back in the old days, before bonded fillings, air abrasion usage was fairly limited to specific dental procedures. Nowadays, it can be used for almost all restorations as a way to remove decay and increase the bond strength of your white composite bonded restorations.

Air Abrasion Machine

Air abrasion has many advantages over rotary (drill) instrumentation. Many of the air abrasion procedures can be performed without anesthesia. It does not lead to micro fracturing of the enamel. It is extremely conservative and can be used to remove only demineralized and decayed tooth structure. It can be utilized in conjunction with laser-fluorescence caries diagnostic equipment (we have it) to detect occlusal pit and fissure decay at a very early stage, and to treat the lesion painlessly and atraumatically, sometimes with a sealant (BPA free).

Treating cavities when they are small will lead to smaller fillings. We no longer have to work with “extension for retention” mentality (make the hole bigger, wider and deeper so that the filling will stay in), which is very typical for conventional mercury fillings. Using a drill-less (air abrasion or laser) route has pretty much put the dental drill out of business for small cavities.

Air abrasion involves using a miniature sand blaster-like instrument that sprays a powdery, non-toxic abrasive powder against the tooth. Its effect is precise and gentle. This process efficiently removes the carious (decayed) parts of your tooth, and leaves the healthy parts intact. It will preserve the natural enamel and as much of the healthy tooth structure as possible.

Air abrasion is perfect for children. With regular checkups,decay can be located early and most times it can be treated without injections or the noisy drill sounds.I know you wish they had this when you were a kid. Me too.

These are the advantages of Air Abrasion:

· Strengthens all bonded restorations: sealants, fillings, onlays, crowns

· Removes small cavities, usually painlessly

· No noise of drill

· No vibration or heat

· No micro fracture of tooth

· Usually no anesthesia needed

· No needle and no drill= no fear and no pain

These are the limitations:

· Can only be used with small cavities; not in deep decay

· Cannot be used for root canals or crown preparation or gum treatment

· Leaves a powdery residue (a little messy) that is easily rinsed away

· Dental drill may still be needed to complete the preparation

The white odorless powder used is aluminum oxide (alumina), the fourth most abundant compound in the earth’s crust. Since it is an aluminum based compound, I have had several patients over the years ask about its safety. Here’s my understanding.

Its hardness is second only to the diamond. It is insoluble in water, chemically inert, “environmentally friendly” and allowed in landfills. Due to its extensive use in the medical (microderm abrasion) and dental fields, many studies have been performed to investigate the potential toxicity of aluminum oxide.

Respiration: In order for the alumina to reach the alveoli of the lungs, the particles must be very small, less than 5 microns. Most alumina systems have a variety of crystal sizes of between 53 and 180 microns, with no more than 3% at less than 53 microns. If these particles become airborne and are inhaled, they are effectively trapped by the passageways of the nose and the mucosa-coated, ciliated epithelial cells of the upper bronchial tree of the lungs and are effectively removed by the clearing of the nose, coughing to the exterior, or swallowing. They should not affect your lungs. Personally, having worked with air abrasion for the last 20 years, I have never had a patient experience any breathing issues from it.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Noxious aluminum exposure to patients and operators from air abrasion procedures would require that the aluminum in the crystals not only be converted into a biologically active form, but also, be introduced into the bloodstream or tissues of the body. As discussed earlier, the chemical form of aluminum crystals is aluminum oxide, a compound that is chemically inert. Chemical inertness translates to the fact that the aluminum is very tightly bound to oxygen (AL2O3 is the chemical formula for alumina)) and is not soluble in water or plasma. Therefore, aluminum in this chemical form cannot ionize or become complexed with other chemical species, cannot become biologically active and should not affect any brain neurons. Thusly…No Alzheimers. I would be more concerned about aluminum foil wrap, aluminum soda cans and aluminum takeout food containers. Consider also the aluminum in baking powder products as well as deodorants. These are the basis of aluminum toxicity in your bodies. Not aluminum oxide used in air abrasion.

Alumina has been the mainstay of dental restorations for decades, and new processing techniques have improved its performance. The abrasive in dental paste used to polish teeth is a form of aluminum oxide crystals. These crystals are also used in the technique of air abrasion for removal of certain types of dental caries. Its capabilities and user-friendly attributes make it an excellent choice for a non-invasive pain-free dental experience.

Ask how we can use Air Abrasion at your next visit.

If you liked this post, you may also like: Healthy Children Have Healthy Teeth

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