John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press

Some Cavities Filled With No Drill And No Novacaine

With "virtually no pain" most cavities can now be filled without using the standard dental drill or a local anesthetic (Novacaine), according to the Academy of General Dentistry. This is done by the use of "air abrasion" devices. This relatively new technology is also called "micro abrasion," which is accomplished by blowing a fine stream of air containing fine aluminum oxide particles with a special air-tip. In accordance with the principle of kinetic energy, the tiny particles bounce of the tooth and blast the decay away.

There is virtually no pain in most cases because there is no vibration, no heat from friction and annoying sound. Air-Abrasion cuts tooth surfaces with "utmost precision," produces no vibration, and therefore does not contribute to the tendency for the tooth structure to fracture. In addition, this precision allows your dentist to remove mostly just the decayed tooth structure. Since decayed tooth structure has no functional sensory fibers, there is no sensation of pain when cavities are cleaned. For this reason there is hardly any need for local anesthetics in air abrasion procedures. A further advantage is that this technology is quick, saves time, and the treatment time is therefore, usually shorter.

Composites, or "white fillings," are used to fill teeth prepared by air abrasion. While silver fillings required cutting sound tooth structure, so that the filling could be locked in, white fillings are bonded to tooth structure without the need for mechanical retention. For this reason, cavity preparations done with air-abrasion are smaller and approximate the actual size of the cavity.

Air abrasion is also used to repair cracks, discolorations, prepare teeth for bonding and even cleaning hard to reach stains, like those between teeth.

If you have abrasion fillings done, expect to find an accumulation of harmless, dusty particle debris in the mouth. This may give you a gritty filling. Rinsing easily eradicates the powder. Eyeglasses or eye cover may be used to serve as a particle barrier. A special vacuum machine may be used to reduce dust buildup.

Air abrasion technology is also an especially good option for children, who may be afraid of needles, noise and vibration. In fact, anyone who has anxieties regarding dental treatment will be relieved that it is now available in many dental offices.

Air abrasion cannot be used for procedures such as crown and bridge preparations. The dental drill is still required for these procedures. As a preventative measure, air abrasion may be used as an aid in applying sealants to teeth. Air abrasion cleans out the stained pit on biting surfaces of teeth, without the need to drill the teeth. Sealants or even composites can then be used to seal these weak spots in the teeth. Because the surfaces are micro0abraded, sealants and composites bond better against tooth structure.

Ask your dentist if you are an appropriate candidate for air abrasion at your next regular visit.

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