For many years, dentists have used drills to prepare teeth for dental crowns, treat cavities, and perform root canals. Many people feel anxious when they hear the sound of a drill. Fortunately, dentists have another method that they can use for many common dental procedures without the unnerving noise, heat, and vibrations of a drill.
Air abrasion is an alternative treatment that can be used to remove tooth decay. It uses tiny particles of aluminum oxide or silica to gently remove decayed material. Compressed air sprays sand-like particles at the teeth being treated, and an assistant suctions away excess material. Air abrasion does not cause the type of friction that is common with a drill. Air abrasion is also referred to as microabrasion or kinetic cavity preparation.
Air abrasion can be used to treat cavities or to prepare a tooth for sealants or bonding. The technique can also be used to remove old composite resin fillings and to remove surface stains from teeth.
Less tooth material is removed with air abrasion than with drilling. This can reduce discomfort and the need for anesthesia. More than one section of the mouth can be treated in one session, which can reduce the number of appointments required.
If you are treated with air abrasion, your dentist will probably provide you with goggles to protect your eyes from particles being sprayed. He or she will use a rubber dam or resin to protect other teeth from the particles.
A traditional drill is still needed for certain dental procedures. A drill is required to prepare a tooth for a crown, remove deep decay, or perform a root canal. Air abrasion can only be used with composite resin fillings because it smoothes the surface of a tooth. Amalgam fillings need a rough surface to adhere correctly, which means a drill needs to be used.
Air abrasion is a better choice than a drill for children and people who experience dental anxiety because it eliminates the sound, heat, and vibrations caused by a traditional drill. It may be more costly than using a drill, but for some patients, the extra cost is worth it.