Teeth Stain Removal using Air Abrasion

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Air abrasion, micro air abrasion or kinetic cavity preparation dates back to the 1940’s but is now regularly used in everyday dentistry allowing dentists to perform a range of treatments with an alternative tool to a drill.  Air abrasion works by blasting air onto the surface of your teeth, so eliminating materials such as decay food debris.  Air abrasion uses a stream of fine particles and compressed air which, when aimed at the decaying section of the tooth, can remove small particles and any plaque so giving the tooth a thorough cleaning. The particles used in air abrasion usually consist of silica, aluminium oxide or a mixture of baking soda. These are sprayed on to your teeth using compressed air or gas; the displaced particles are then removed from your mouth using a suction tool. 

When & Why Air Abrasion is Used

  • Small cavities - Air abrasion is used as an alternative to a drill, helping to clean cavities in the tooth before they are treated.  The mixture of powder and air blast away any decaying tooth or matter, leaving the healthy tooth almost untouched and makes certain that the filling is placed into a clean cavity. 
  • Repairing small chips - to clean & seal the area
  • Tooth cleaning - Air abrasion can also be used as a tooth cleaning method for those who have no silver fillings or bad sensitivity.  Superficial stains or small marks can also be removed using air abrasion.
  • Preparation for fittings – It can be used to prepare the teeth for any braces, fixtures or sealants as well as for fillings.
  • Removing fillings - For a number of years, dentists have been using air abrasion to remove old composite restorations, although it is less effective on metallic ones like amalgam fillings.  It easily destroys the composite materials, leaving the tooth intact. 

Advantages of Air Abrasion

  • There are a number of advantages when using air abrasion over the conventional method of drilling.
  • Noise and discomfort - Drills produce a large amount of noise and vibration that can make patients uneasy.  Air abrasion doesn’t produce either of these effects and is a smooth and noiseless process.
  • Reduced need for anaesthetic - Air abrasion can often prevent the need for a local anaesthetic, especially in the cases of small, surface cavities.
  • More of the healthy tooth remains intact - Air abrasion is a much gentler and less invasive method than drilling so more of the healthy tooth tissue remains after treatment.
  • Less risk of tooth damage during the process – Drilling can sometimes lead to small fractures or chips in the teeth which are obviously going to require further treatments at some point.  Air abrasion is very gentle and cannot cause any additional damage to the teeth. 
  • Fast and can be applied to more that one tooth in a single session - Due to the speed of the process your dentist will be able to treat a number of sites in the mouth during a single session. 
  • No heat – Drills can produce heat while they are being used due to the friction created by wearing away the tooth.  This can produce additional problems and can make the process quite painful, but air abrasion involves no increased heat at all.  
  • Less fluid – Air abrasion creates less fluid within the mouth when it is being used, which is helpful when performing composite fillings.

Disadvantages of Air Abrasion

  • Air abrasion has an excellent safety record but you are likely to be given eye protection to protect against any aggravation from the spray. Similarly, a rubber dam is commonly applied to the surrounding teeth so that areas which aren't being treated will not be affected. 
  • Air abrasion cannot be used to prepare the mouth for metallic fillings and cannot be used to remove them either. This limits the number of situations air abrasion can be used for.  Composite fillings are the only kind that can be gelled to the smooth area created by air abrasion, and even then they can only be shallow.  The closer a cavity is to the dental pulp and roots, the less likely it is that you can have air abrasion. 
  • There is a powder used in the process that can be messy.  However, a suction devise will be used to get rid of this and sometimes you will be fitted with a rubber dam to prevent any extra powder from entering your throat. 
  • Air abrasion is not completely without discomfort.  The feeling produced by air abrasion can be strange, and you might find your teeth increase in sensitivity afterwards. 
  • Due to the specialist equipment and training available, air abrasion is not available at every clinic, although it is becoming increasingly popular.

Suitability for Air Abrasion

Air abrasion is often used for people who have not had any previous fillings, such as children or those who have no cavities.  Because air abrasion is not suitable for metallic fillings it cannot be used for every individual.  The best candidate for air abrasion is someone who has very shallow cavities that has not had previous fillings.  It is also a good drill substitute for those who are nervous of the noises, vibrations or thought of a drill.

Air Abrasion Risks

There is no risk associated with air abrasion.  If you need an anaesthetic at the same time then this holds risk of its own, but air abrasion alone cannot pose you any risk.  You will be asked to wear eye protection so that any powder released into the air does not cause you any irritation.  You might also be given a rubber dam to wear in the mouth, or areas will be treated with a form of resin, so that no powder goes down your throat.  These are the only precautionary methods that need to take place. 

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