Airflow Polishing Updates as Fresh as Your Breath

airflow polishing updates as fresha as your breathHave you used an air polisher lately? For many of you, the answer is sure to be no. Maybe your device is sitting in a cabinet because your patients used to complain about the taste and texture, or perhaps your office doesn’t have one at all because you feel rubber cups are a more cost effective option for the same procedure – fair enough. BUT, as they are wont to do in the dental biz, things have changed! A number of recent advancements to air polishing techniques and technology may cause you to reconsider your position on this polishing practice. Here are some air flow polishing updates  that are as fresh as your breath!*

*We’re assuming it is quite fresh given your chosen profession ?


The Perception of Air Polishing

survey about perception of air flow polishing

A recent survey of dental hygienists conducted by Hu-Friedy revealed some interesting statistics. Take a look:

  • 62% of clinicians do not use air polishing at all.
  • 28% of clinicians use air polishing on 25% of their patients or less.
  • 42% of clinicians use air polishing to treat site-specific areas only, versus whole mouth treatment.
  • Just 1% of clinicians use air polishing subgingivally.

When asked what words dental hygienists would use to describe air polishing, here are some of the most popular responses:

  • Messy
  • Discomfort/Pain
  • Salty/Grainy
  • Stain Removal
  • Supragingival

Given these results, it’s really no surprise that dental professionals don’t choose to use air polishing. The perception that it is messy, causes patient discomfort, has an unpleasant taste, and is an approach only used for supragingival stain removal when other methods have a more comprehensive range of abilities, is a lot for any tool to overcome! However, those words describe “the old guard” of air polishing – the one that’s been around for several decades…


The Air Polishing Revolution

The advancements hinted at above? They’ve made a huge impact – so much so, that newer air polishers can’t really even be considered “air polishers” anymore, because the term is too limiting.

If you’ve used an air polisher since the late 1970s, you’ve most likely used sodium bicarbonate powders. This large-grain material is terrific for the efficient removal of heavy stains, but it’s also one of the main reasons clinicians and patients dislike the technology as a whole.

Enter glycine powder. Glycine powder opens up the world of air polishing beyond stain removal and polishing. When you’ve used glycine, the list of associated words will change. In fact, it’ll look more like:

  • Comfortable
  • Gentle/Smooth
  • Biofilm Removal
  • Supra- AND subgingival


What is Glycine Powder?

glycine powder compared to sodium bicarbonate powderAbove is a close-up image of sodium bicarbonate powder (left) and how it compares to glycine powder (right). Glycine powder is low-abrasive, at 25 microns. Comparatively, sodium bicarbonate ranges from 60-120 microns depending on the manufacturer. Imagine how the texture of table salt (sodium bicarbonate) compares to baby powder (glycine). That alone should tell you why glycine is a more comfortable and gentle alternative to standard powders. Plus, it tastes better since it’s not sodium-based, but rather amino acid-based!

The benefit of this fine, gentle material extends beyond patient comfort. It is safe on all tooth surfaces and can access sensitive or delicate areas where sodium bicarbonate could not be used. These areas include subgingival surfaces, exposed root surfaces, on implants and restorations, and with ortho hardware.

Remember, according to the survey, just 1% of clinicians have been using air polishing subgingivally – most likely because the older air polishing devices are not designed to accommodate glycine powder.


Battling Biofilm

biofilm progression chartThe real benefit of the new tooth surface access that this comfortable, gentle powder grants, is biofilm removal. Because they can go where your current air polisher has never gone before, devices that are designed to use glycine powder can help you more efficiently remove biofilm. And since biofilm accumulation leads to more serious oral health issues ranging from gingivitis to periodontitis, the time is right to prioritize biofilm removal over stain removal with these devices. This is especially true for perio maintenance patients who need regular biofilm removal to prevent further tooth and implant loss.


Your Solution: AIR-FLOW Therapy

glycine powder use diagramsHu-Friedy’s AIR-FLOW Therapy line of devices and powders allows you to quickly, effectively, and comfortably remove biofilm virtually everywhere. When used with the glycine perio powder, the standard nozzle will take care of biofilm on supragingival surfaces and shallow subgingival surfaces when angled towards the sulcus. The PERIO-FLOW nozzle can be inserted directly into a pocket for a more targeted subgingival spray. The flexible nozzle also adapts around the height of contour for full access on implants and other restorations.

Typically, dental hygienists either have the tedious task of removing biofilm with many overlapping strokes through hand or power scaling, or face the challenge of limited access with a rubber cup and paste. While biofilm removal with hand or power scaling can take anywhere from 30-64 seconds per tooth, AIR-FLOW Therapy takes just 5 seconds.

comparison of biofilm removal timesClinicians who regularly use AIR-FLOW Therapy have seen an average time savings of 8-12 minutes per patient. Those who start with biofilm removal using AIR-FLOW Therapy prior to scaling find that not only is it faster and easier to remove the biofilm, but calculus detection and removal is also quicker and easier because scaling can then be focused on hard deposits and any remaining stain alone.


Bottom Line

Forget your past experiences with air polishing and explore the value that these new devices with low-abrasive powders, like AIR-FLOW Therapy, can deliver: increased patient comfort, better oral health, and more time savings for you and your team. These are not your mama’s air polishing systems! Click here to view Hu-Friedy’s AIR-FLOW devices, and click here to shop for glycine AIR-FLOW powder.


Content provided by Hu-Friedy

3 thoughts on “Airflow Polishing Updates as Fresh as Your Breath

  1. May we use your images and article in a presentation for Dental Hygiene school? We will acknowledge appropriately! Please and thank you!

    1. Hi Gelila, thank you for visiting OffTheCusp, and we’re so glad you found this article useful! You most certainly may, and we appreciate the offer to acknowledge the source 🙂 Thanks again and best of luck with your presentation – let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!

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