What is drill-free dentistry?
Drill-free dentistry uses a technique called air abrasion to remove tooth decay without the need for a drill. The technique uses a special instrument designed to emit a high-powered stream of aluminum oxide particles which “wear away” the decayed portion, preparing the tooth for a restoration like a filling or crown.

When is air abrasion used?
The air abrasion technique is used in a wide variety of techniques, including:

  • preparing a tooth for a tooth-colored composite filling
  • restoring worn or discolored teeth
  • preparing teeth for sealants and other treatments
  • repairing old fillings, bridges and crowns

What are the benefits of drill-free dentistry?
One of the primary benefits of air abrasion is that because it does not create heat and friction like a dental drill, anesthetic injections are generally not necessary, making it an ideal approach for patients who are anxious about getting needles. The air abrasion device is also much quieter than a drill, which can also help reduce anxiety. And because the device delivers the stream of aluminum oxide crystals very precisely, surrounding soft tissues are not harmed and more of the healthy tooth material remains intact. Although air abrasion techniques generally take more time than traditional drilling, it is minimally invasive, preserves more of the natural tooth structure and creates a stronger bond of the filling to the tooth. This means a longer lasting filling.

Can air abrasion be used in all procedures instead of a drill?
No, although it has many benefits, air abrasion is not always the ideal approach. Because the crystals produce a very smooth tooth surface, air abrasion can only be used with composite tooth-colored fillings, not with metal amalgam fillings which require a rougher surface for adhesion. Other restorations like inlays and onlays also require the use of a drill. In addition, patients with very sensitive teeth or deep decay may have discomfort during an air abrasion procedure and may still require a local anesthetic.