By: Gutmann, Marylou Everett Publication: Journal of Dental Hygiene Date: Monday, June 22 1998

“Oral health care professionals have a responsibility to patients to engage in life-long learning in order to provide the most contemporary clinical care. This review of air polishing should enable clinicians to make sound decisions regarding the most appropriate treatment for each patient. Air polishing has been studied extensively and, when used appropriately, provides a safe, efficient and contemporary approach to achieving a variety of treatment goals”.


Air polishing was first introduced to the dental community in the late 1970s as a mechanism to quickly and easily remove extrinsic stain and soft deposits from tooth surfaces. Since that time, researchers have investigated various aspects of this polishing device. Areas of research have included efficiency and effectiveness, effects on hard and soft tissues and restorations, alternative uses, and safety of both the patient and the clinician.

Despite continuing research support for its use since being introduced, the air polisher has not been widely used. White and Hoffman surveyed 2,400 dental hygienists and only 22 percent reported using it routinely.[1] Use of air polishers decreased as the clinician’s age and experience increased.[1] Curricula in many dental hygiene schools do not include clinical instruction in the use of this polishing device due to inadequate numbers of units and difficulty in moving units between clinic stations.[2] Inadequate or insufficient knowledge and experience, therefore, appears to be a major

factor in the underutilization of the air polisher. In an attempt to provide a suitable knowledge base for practicing dental hygienists, the primary purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive summary and critique of the research on all aspects of air polishing. In addition, a suggested technique, common concerns, and possible solutions will be discussed.

Discussions are based on a review of the relevant literature on air polishing. Tables organize the data into categories to facilitate access of needed information. Because of the various research designs employed and the number of variables that must be controlled, comparative analyses of the studies are difficult. However, where possible, analyses of the validity and reliability of the studies are provided. It should be remembered that while laboratory (in vitro) investigations are useful, the most definitive conclusions must be obtained through clinical (in vivo) studies. Case reports or opinion articles have limited applications. Therefore, interpretation and application of research results must be done with caution.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Air polishing has been compared to scaling and rubber-cup polishing for efficiency and effectiveness of stain and plaque removal. The literature overwhelmingly supports the use of the air polisher as an efficient and effective means of removing extrinsic stain and plaque from tooth surfaces (Table I).[3-8] Air polishing requires less time than traditional polishing methods and removes stain three times as fast as scaling with comers.[3,7] In addition, less fatigue to the operator has been mentioned as an important benefit of air polishing.[3]

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