Air Polishing: Information for Patients

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More and more dental clinics across the United States are investing in new air polishing equipment, and you may be asked if you’re interested in air polishing during your next visit. So is this a good option?

Although air polishing has only recently become a common option for dental patients, it’s a concept that’s been around for quite a while. Over the past few years, techniques have been perfected, and air polishing is now believed to be a very safe, effective, and efficient way to remove stains from the teeth, although it’s important to remember that air polishing methods may not be suitable for everyone.

What is Air Polishing?

Air polishing is just that – it’s the practice of polishing the teeth using a stream of air that’s directed onto them. Some air polishing machines may also use a stream of water. The air works in two ways. Firstly, it ‘blows’ onto the teeth and gums to remove any buildups of dirt, and get rid of any food that may have become trapped, which is especially common if you choose not to floss. Secondly, it blows an abrasive powder onto the teeth which helps to tackle stubborn stains such as tea and coffee.

There are two powders that are commonly used for air polishing, and these are sodium bicarbonate and glycerin powders. These are chosen because of their excellent abrasive qualities. Think about when you’ve got a dirty pan in your kitchen – you may use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to remove the stains. It’s exactly the same when it comes to your teeth; sodium bicarbonate can help to get them clean.

Air Polishing or Traditional Polishing?

So which is better: air polishing or traditional polishing? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. When the most suitable polishers are used, there really shouldn’t be any differences in the overall result, but some people do prefer air polishing simply because it’s the newer option. But it’s not for everyone.

One of the biggest concerns with air polishing is the use of sodium bicarbonate as an abrasive. It’s reported that 1 in every 3 adults in the US suffers with hypertension, or high blood pressure, and many are advised to adhere to a low sodium diet to help keep symptoms under control. The use of sodium bicarbonate, which has a high salt content, could potentially be risky for some dental patients. A number of clinics are now using calcium carbonate instead, so this is worth checking with your practice.

Another concern is that air polishing could reduce bond strengths on tooth restorations, and so it is generally advised that patients with restorations stick to traditional polishing techniques using dedicated nanocomposite polishers which are not only safe to use on restorations, but also provide a great finish.

Overall, air polishing can be good to try, and you may find that you prefer this over traditional polishing methods. However, if you are unable to use air polishing for health reasons, don’t worry. Traditional polishing techniques can be equally as effective, leaving you with smooth, shiny, and healthy teeth.

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