The removal of stains by means of microabrasion

What is microabrasion?

This is a term used in dentistry that refers to the removal of a superficial layer of the enamel with the intention to eliminate certain irregularities, stains, and superficial discolorations. The technique implies minimal intervention; the dentist polishes with great care the superficial layer of the tooth using an abrasive tool and hydrochloric acid. This procedure is assisted by intermittent irrigations and is often followed by remineralization treatments.

What is the success rate of microabrasion treatments?

The success of microabrasion treatments is connected to the type and extent of the discoloration. It isn’t always easy to assess the type of the discoloration and to predict whether it can or cannot be completely removed by means of microabrasion. The general rule is that darker stains can be treated with better results as compared to white stains; yet, microabrasion can be a suitable solution to improve the appearance of a white discoloration of the enamel. More often than not positive results are achieved, even if not all stains are completely removable.

How can a dentist determine whether a stain can or cannot be removed with microabrasion treatment?

Microabrasion is usually efficient in treating white and brown pigmentation on the surface of permanent teeth that do not respond to peroxide treatments.

Unfortunately, deep and irreversible discoloration caused by root canal treatments, tetracycline treatments, or trauma, cannot be treated by means of microabrasion.

In order to evaluate the nature and gravity of tooth discoloration or pigmentation, a dentist needs to differentiate between abnormal mineralization (defect) and incipient carious lesions, often located at the base of the tooth, near the gums. Incipient caries that appear as enamel staining can be reversible if treated promptly.

Is microabrasion dangerous?

No. A very thin layer of enamel is removed. Your dentist will not remove more than necessary and will cease the procedure and change the treatment strategy if the stain cannot be removed with microabrasion. In case of failure, the alternative usually consists in restorative techniques, such as dental veneers and dental crowns. Compared to microabrasion, both techniques are invasive as they require some preparation of the tooth. If the discoloration is not profound, it is advisable to try microabrasion first.

Some patients fear that, in the long run, thinning the enamel will affect the integrity of the tooth more than the initial demineralization process. Yet, statistics indicate that the porous surface of the tooth formed as a result of demineralization is more prone to cavity formation and more sensitive to acidic exposure than the surface smoothened my means of microabrasion; a smoother surface is less adherent, easier to clean and less likely to retain plaque.

Other patients fear the presence of the acid used during the procedure. However, this concern is without base: the concentration of the acid is minimal, and the gums are protected during the procedure.

Are there any side effects associated to the procedure?

Theoretically, if the tooth enamel is thinner, the dentin is more visible and the tooth is somewhat more yellow. Despite the yellowing effect, the general aspect of the tooth is definitely improved after the treatment. If the patient is unsatisfied with the color, the microabrasion treatment can be followed by whitening procedures. The combination of the two techniques is quite common.

Patients who need microabrasion treatments often have some form of dental hypersensitivity as a result of tooth demineralization. This sensitivity can persist until remineralization, but it will not get worse as a result of the treatment as long as the procedure is performed correctly. Normally, the tooth enamel will re-mineralize.

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