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The Application of Air Polishing in Dentistry

Current methods for professional cleaning of implant or titanium transmucosal elements include the set of plastic ultrasonic tips of dental scaler or hand instruments followed by the prophy cup polishing method or various types of floss and buffing strips. The design of the permanently cemented super structure often does not allow adequate access for the prophy cup, especially in interproximal areas, and plastic instruments are not very efficient for the removal of plaque or mineralized deposits. In addition, the prophy cup and paste method may leave residual paste at the implant/soft tissue interface area.

Air polishing units typically generate a stream of pressurized air, carrying specially graded particles of a mild soluble abrasive, such as sodium bicarbonate, like dental air polisher. The abrasive is directed, in the presence of a stream of water, at a tooth surface to be cleaned. The mixture of water and powderladed stream occurs on the tooth surface and forms a “slurry” that is responsible for the cleaning action. Airpolishing consists of directing, water, air and sodium bicarbonate towards the tooth or implant surface, resulting in efficient removal of bacterial plaque and soft mineralized deposits.

Air polishing devices were originally designed to be standalone tabletop units. They have been considered to be the equipment of choice for the hygiene department, sometimes being combined with ultrasonic scaling devices. They offer a large powder chamber holding enough powder for multiple treatments, along with the convenience of a lightweight, fully autoclavable handpiece design. They are activated by a dedicated foot control that can select either a polishing or rinse mode and they require connections to water, air and electrical outlets. As such, they are normally allocated to a particular treatment room.

Air flow polishing is ideal for those who suffer from sensitive teeth. This is not only due to the lack of direct contact and the absence of heat and vibration, but because the tiny micro particles of powder can actually fill any exposed dentine tubules and reduce dental sensitivity. Air flow polishing can also encourage the re-mineralization of damaged teeth.

No discussion on the use of airpolishing around implants would be complete without consideration of the possible affect on the periimplant soft tissues. Studies on the effects of airpolishing on the gingiva when used around natural teeth conclude that gingival abrasion and bleeding are the most common effects but that these are temporary, heal rapidly within 2-6 days and are of no clinical significance.

Studies have shown that air polishing is over three times faster at removing stains and plaque than traditional methods. This means less time in the chair for the patient and therefore fewer interruptions. Teeth are cleaned in a much less abrasive manner than scraping and polishing which also causes less damage to the teeth. Any small areas of decay are gently blasted away without the need to drill into the healthy structure of the tooth.


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