Hygienists, you need this. You want this in your life. You will thank yourself. Your patients will thank you. I feel love and snuggles and see rainbows and unicorns when using the air powder polisher (APP).
As you are well aware, our patients can literally feel bacteria because plaque is bacteria, and plaque makes our teeth feel like they are wearing fuzzy sweaters. As a clinician, you will hear angels singing because you won’t have crabby claws after cleaning a heavy smoker or a patient that is a chromogenic bacteria fest. Your patients, their biofilm, and your highly technical and talented fingers will feel the difference between treatment without an air powder polisher and treatment that includes powder blasting! Let me break it down for you.
As dental hygienists, we are biofilm warriors and what better to eliminate the supra-gingival biofilm enemy with, then air powder polishing. We all know that biofilm is the nasty bacteria that starts an inflammatory war with your mouth AND other parts of your body (talk amongst yourselves); its destruction must be had. Making its debut in the 70’s, the APP removes biofilm, as well as the pellicle that encourages plaque attachment. Not only does APP blast biofilm and underlying pellicle, but it leaves more time for you to TALK to your patients about said biofilm and what it means for their health.
I am confident that the APP provides psychological reinforcement as to why our patients need to keep their recommended recalls. Let’s get real, they may not care that you are disrupting a mature, homogeneous substance in their mouth, but they do care that their teeth feel “smooth and clean.” It would be ideal if our patients were in our chairs for the same reasons that we want them there, but honest to goodness, not all of our patients realize the significance of what we do. Allow the APP procedure to be a motivation moment which can help the patient understand that inflammatory and disease-causing bacteria are felt as plaque on their teeth.
My patients know the APP as the “baking soda spray” or the “magic eraser,” as these are my pet names for it. While I’m using the “magic eraser” you may hear such things from me as, “Holy buckets, I wish you could see this happening, the stain is erasing right off!” Or, “Goodbye stain!” And even, “I can’t wait for you to see how great your teeth look!” Be excited about what you do and how you do it! It is a rad time to be a part of dentistry. Let your patients not only know but feel, that you believe that! I like to think that my patients get a kick out of seeing me nerd out on dentistry as it elevates their perception of the quality of care they are receiving from me.
Speaking for myself, I am not a very selfish clinician; I need to work on this because I find myself contorting my body to answer to the patients’ positional requests. Ergonomics, what?! The APP, yeah you know me, allows us to preserve our ever abused fingers, hands, head, and neck. With the push of a pedal, a glorious stream of air, powder, and water, blast away tedious and unnecessary instrument strokes. I can spend several minutes with scalers and/or curettes on ONE tooth covered in stain, or I can take a few glorious seconds to blast off said stain. This “magic eraser” provides less operator fatigue as well as less patient fatigue and sha-baam! We both win!
I know, you are reading this article and are on fire about the APP, try and calm down. With just about anything in this world, there are contraindications; times I advise you not magic erase your peeps. The absolute no-no’s when using this instrument are patients with respiratory illness, infectious disease, Addison’s, and Cushing’s1. Furthermore, it is not to be used on restorative work, including fillings, crowns, and your doctor’s beautiful veneers. For patients with a sodium-restricted diet and high blood pressure, I turn to Aluminum Trihydroxide even though most of the Sodium Bicarbonate is sucked up with the suction.
I would also like to mention that the APP is a technical procedure and requires practice to master. The overspray from this beast is painful on gingiva, mucosa, and lips, but with care and consideration, it is quite simple to avoid this dilemma. Over the years, I have developed some tricks that make this an experience that the patient actually looks forward to. I’d be happy to share these gems with you in a future discussion (I’ve got to keep you coming back for more), but for now, I will inform you that the key to patient comfort is in gauze and suction placement.
Long story short, air powder polishing provides tremendous benefits. For my patients and me, the APP is like loves and snuggles and rainbows and unicorns! I hope that my dental nerdiness combined with my obsession with the APP (yeah you know me!) has shed some light on this epic and magical piece of equipment. You are all rockstar health advocates; keep on killin’ it and always be well!
- Graumann, S.J., Sensat, M.L., Stoltenberg, J.L. (2013, August). Air Polishing: A Review of Current Literature. Retrieved from http://jdh.adha.org.