Air abrasion is a new micro-dentistry technique that is used to treat tooth decay and prepare teeth for restorations. Traditionally, dentists used noisy dental drills to remove decay and prepare the teeth for fillings, but air abrasion has proven to be a noiseless, heatless, minimally invasive alternative. Air abrasion is similar to sandblasting, in that tiny particles are propelled toward small areas of decay to remove them. A filling is then applied to seal the tooth from further harm.
An anesthetic is not usually required for this procedure, which means the dentist can treat multiple teeth in a single appointment. The goal of air abrasion is to pinpoint and remove early areas of decay, while preserving more of the natural tooth. The combination of air abrasion and composite resin fillings quickly and comfortably restores functionality and strength to the teeth.
Here are some of the main advantages associated with air abrasion:
- More of the natural tooth is left untouched.
- No need for anesthesia in most cases.
- No vibrations, horrible noises or excessive pressure.
- Quicker, easier procedures.
- Reduced risk of further damage to the teeth (chipping and fractures).
- Teeth are left dry, which is advantageous for filling placement.
Traditional dental restoratives, or fillings, include gold, porcelain, and composite. The strength and durability of traditional dental materials make them useful for situations where restored teeth must withstand extreme forces that result from chewing, often in the back of the mouth.
Newer dental fillings include ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are usually used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important, but they can also be used on the back teeth depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay.
What's right for me?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations, including:
- The components used in the filling material
- The amount of tooth structure remaining
- Where and how the filling is placed
- The chewing load that the tooth will have to bear
- The length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth
Before your treatment begins, your doctor will discuss with you all of your options and help you choose the best filling for your particular case. In preparation for this discussion it may be helpful to understand the two basic types of dental fillings — direct and indirect.
- Direct fillings are fillings placed into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling, and adjusts it in one appointment.
- Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. They include inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns, and bridges fabricated with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and makes an impression of the area to be restored. The dentist then places a temporary covering over the prepared tooth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.