Which dental air polisher will add the most benefit for dental patients and teams?

April 23, 2021

If you’re not using a dental air polisher at your practice, you‘re missing out on opportunities for improving dental patient experiences and reducing dental team fatigue. Learn benefits of all the newest dental air polishers and then decide which air polisher is best for your patients and dental team.

Depending on your age, air polishing is something you may have learned about briefly in school, but never encountered again. There are some good reasons for that. Back in the day, air polishers were fiddly to set up, messy to use and a pain to clean. Patients quickly developed reservations of their own after experiencing the ‘yucky’ tasting polishing powder. However, that has all changed. 

What is a dental air polisher? 

Air polishers use abrasive powders, propelled by highly pressurized air, to create a precise abrasive action for polishing teeth. Originally introduced in the 1970s, old air polishers provided an alternative to rubber cup polishing with one big caveat: they were intended for use only on supragingival surfaces and not softer tissue like dentin and cementum.  

Just as most technologies have improved significantly over the past four decades, so have air polishers. Today’s units are relatively small, while the handpieces are now ultra-lightweight and easily maneuverable. They can now be used on subgingival surfaces. Also, while there was only one powder type available in the 70s, there are now several that cover a range of uses.  

Why use a dental air polisher? 

Air polishers are magic-like when it comes to safe stain removal, eliminating the scraping and harsh abrasion patients normally experience as a negative. You might even describe them as ‘washing away’ stains. That’s important, since most patients equate a successful prophy appointment with an attractive smile rather than effective removal of biofilm. 

However, stain removal is hardly the only indication for use. Air polishers are great for cleaning around the appliances of orthodontic patients. They’ve also long been used to clean occlusal surfaces prior to sealant placement. Plus, a growing number of practitioners have found new uses like treating patients with hypersensitive, exposed dentin. Subgingival air polishing can also be useful for removing biofilm in periodontal pockets with less bleeding and discomfort.  

Perhaps most important is your own wellbeing. It’s hard to deliver care if you’re beating yourself up day after day. Air polishers can help turn otherwise difficult and fatiguing appointments into much more manageable scenarios. Isn’t it worth considering how adding a proven, relatively inexpensive tool to your armamentarium could save you time and needless effort? 

What types of powders are available for a dental air polisher? 

Newer powders are the secret sauce of modern air polishing. Long gone are the days of sodium bicarbonate being the only choice. Aluminum trihydroxide, for example, is an alternative to sodium bicarbonate for patients who need or want to reduce their sodium intake. Glycine is a finer, more neutral-tasting powder that’s often picked for subgingival applications. Calcium carbonate uses sphere-shaped crystals that are especially effective for stain removal.  

Calcium sodium phosphosilicate bioactive glass can reduce sensitivity by occluding dentinal tubules. The list of brands and types continues to grow.   

What about the coronavirus and aerosols? 

Every provider has been forced to make difficult choices, but as the pandemic eases, we’re seeing treatment concerns that can’t be ignored. Teeth grinding, and resulting perio issues, emerged as a significant problem that only got worse as lockdowns and surges ratcheted up patient stress levels. Smoking, red wine and coffee consumption saw usage increases as well, and those stains need to be effectively addressed. Dentistry hasn’t stopped doing aerosol generating procedures, we’ve simply become more selective and careful. The same protocols that enhance safety during other aerosol-generating procedures should be considered when using air polishing. It’s also worth noting that the latest air polishers emit less powder mist than older designs.  

How do I choose an air polisher? 

Typically, air polishers come in tabletop models, or handpiece designs for the ultimate in portability. Some tabletop models can accommodate both ultrasonic scaling and air polishing, but some feel the best performance is derived from single-purpose devices. There are many choices of both air polishers and tips, and it really comes down to your needs and ergonomic preferences. 

Kavo’s PROPHYflex 4 is a ‘next gen’ handpiece with excellent ergonomics for less hand fatigue.  
It offers a precise powder jet, perfectly balanced adjustable length, and precision perio tip ideal for natural teeth, implants, and ortho patients. The adjustable pressure feature gives you the ultimate in flexibility for supragingival and subgingival surfaces. It’s also easy to 
 
disassemble for reprocessing.  

Hu-Friedy’s AIRFLOW offers desirable features like adjustable water temperature, interactive touch panel, a state-of-the-art pressurization tower that can pressurize and depressurize in seconds, and powder chambers that are easier to switch out for different treatments with no need to purge the device. Meanwhile, the Cavitron Prophy Jet from Dentsply Sirona features Tap-On Technology to improve ergonomics by reducing foot pedal usage, automatically cycling between air polish and rinse without a need to touch the pedal. Finally, lesser known but well worth considering, the AquaCare system is available in single and twin configurations, and includes a cutting function as well. 

Back to the future? 

Air polishing may have its roots in the 1970s, but recent improvements have brought it fully up to modern standards. In today’s busy practices, where time is of the essence and fatigue is one of the biggest threats, air polishing offers huge benefits in terms of treatment flexibility, hygienist wellness and speed. Do you have patients with perio issues, crowding, orthodontic appliances, implants or heavy stains? Of course you do, and air polishing can transform how you treat them.

To learn more about which of today’s high-tech, easy-to-use air polishers might be right for you, contact a Friendly Benco Rep or call 1.800.GOBENCO.

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