Air Abrasion: A Replacement for the Dental Drill?

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Your sleep impacts every aspect of your health and daily life. Sleeping well helps you look, feel and perform your best. But a sleep problem can be harmful to your health and well-being. One of the most common sleep problems is obstructive sleep apnea. Learn more about the warning signs and how you can get help.

About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Nearly 30 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can cause them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, repeated breathing pauses occur, which often reduce your oxygen levels. These breathing pauses are followed by brief awakenings that disturb your sleep.

Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring and gasping or choking sounds during sleep. Like snoring, sleep apnea is more common in men, but it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway or misaligned jaw all increase the risk of sleep apnea.

Is Treating OSA Important?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea is incredibly important to your health. When left untreated, sleep apnea often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. Sleep apnea also is a threat to your safety as it increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents. Untreated sleep apnea raises your risk for serious health problems. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Erectile dysfunction

Severe, untreated sleep apnea even increases your risk of death.

How is OSA Diagnosed?
Kleinheinz Dentistry is proud to offer a Free Sleep Study. Call our office for more information. 704-542-6003.

How is OSA Treated?

Dr. Kleinheinz can discuss treatment options with you. We will provide a FREE SLEEP STUDY at your convenience.

  • Oral appliance therapy uses a mouth guard-like device - worn only during sleep - to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.

Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance is worn in the mouth only while you sleep and fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances support your jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway.

Many patients consider a sleep apnea appliance to be more comfortable to wear than a CPAP mask. Oral appliances also are quiet, portable and easy to care for.

If you decide that oral appliance therapy is the best treatment option for you, then Dr. Kleinheinz will recommend a prescription for you to receive a custom-made sleep apnea appliance. More than 100 oral appliances have received FDA clearance. We prescribe and make the FDA approved appliances. Oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans. We will do a complete benefits check upon your scheduled appointment.

In the future, could small cavities be detected early and filled without anesthesia, and with only the minimum removal of tooth material? Will routine dental procedures be performed with patients noticing no vibration or pressure? Will the piercing whine of a dental drill be a sound that's heard in dental offices no more? The answer may well be yes — in fact, it's happening right now with air abrasion technology.

The air abrasion instrument is a hand-held tool that dentists use for a variety of purposes. A bit like a mini-sandblaster, it uses compressed air (or another gas) to produce a fine stream of abrasive particles that can be precisely aimed. The small, high-speed particles (often silica or aluminum oxide) remove tiny bits of material in the decayed portion of the tooth; the debris is then whisked away through a suction tube.

Sound futuristic? It is, but it's not exactly new: Air abrasion instruments were first developed in the 1940's, but recent advances in high-volume suction and improved dental restoration materials have given the process a renewed appeal. Some of the uses for air abrasion tools include: removing dental caries (cavities) and filling them with composite (tooth-colored) material; preparing teeth for bonding, veneering or other procedures; and removing stains or even repairing small defects in teeth.

How It Works

The tiny abrasive particles (.002” or less in diameter) remove only minute amounts of tooth structure, making a drill seem coarse by comparison. The air pressure, flow rate, nozzle diameter, and other settings on the instrument can be accurately controlled to produce the precise amount of abrasion needed. The result is a minimally-invasive method of removing decayed or unwanted tooth material.

Even though powerful suction is used to remove spent abrasive and debris, it's still necessary for everyone to wear protective eyewear as a precaution. A rubber dam (shield) is also generally used to keep abrasive particles from affecting other teeth or getting into areas of the mouth where they don't belong. Nearby teeth and gums can also be coated with a protective resin if needed.

Advantages of Air Abrasion

Because it doesn't require a whirring drill, air abrasion generates no pressure or vibration, and makes very little noise. It can eliminate the need for anesthesia, especially if the cavity isn't deep. It reduces the chance of damaging the tooth during a procedure, and it leaves more healthy tooth material behind. This makes it ideal for children, or others who are sensitive to dental discomfort. In fact, it's perfect for treating tiny cavities that have been detected by laser diagnosis (cavities that aren't big enough to be seen on an X-ray), and sealing them up before they become bigger problems.

Minimally-invasive procedures are where air abrasion truly shines. Because it's a relatively fine-scale instrument, it isn't suitable for treating deep cavities or removing old metal fillings. However, as a high-tech tool for performing many preventive and restorative dental procedures, it offers some unique benefits to both dentist and patient. And some day, it just might make the dental drill obsolete.

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