News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Air-Brush Cavities Away!
Called air-abrasion, air-brushing cavities is the drill-free, virtually painless way for your dentist to prepare the tooth for "white-fillings." Through an extremely fine nozzle, as narrow the tinniest drill, an air-stream of tiny aluminum oxide particles blows the decay away.
Air-abrasion procedures are virtually painless. Generally no anesthetic injection is needed. There are no shrill sounds, vibration or heat from friction associated with dental drills.
The narrow gauge of the air-abrasion nozzle allows the more precise removal of decay than the dental drill. Without the vibration of the high-speed drill there is less tendency for the tooth to develop cracks or fractures. Because there is no frictional heat produced, there are fewer tendencies to develop post-operative temperature sensitivity.
Air-abrasion is only used when composite fillings (white-fillings) are done. For silver fillings, drilling the tooth is necessary to insure the filling does not fall out.
Since air-abrasion technology permits the precise removal of even the smallest cavities, the patient does not have to wait for the cavity to get larger before it is filled. Air-abrasion allows the dentist to give the patient the choice of timely treatment of small cavities and, hence, preservation of tooth structure to prevent future need for large fillings and crowns.
Air-abrasion may also be used for cosmetic bonding of anterior teeth without drilling. Roughening of the tooth surface through air-abrasion increase the ability of filling and bonding material to better adhere to the tooth.
However air-abrasion without anesthetic is not suitable for moderate or deep cavities that might extend into the pulp, which contains the nerves of the tooth. For crowns and bridges, dental drills are still necessary.
Of course it would be better not to have even small cavities. This is now entirely possible with fluoride treatment and a program of good homecare and regular visits to your dentist. But if you do develop small cavities, air-abrasion is a conservative way to care for them.
Many dental plans generally cover air-abrasion fillings. Since plans vary and their provisions are subject to change, it is best to check with your plan first.