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Why Dentists Blow Air On Your Teeth During An Exam

Updated: 4 days ago

You may have noticed that your dentist will usually blow air on your teeth while they're doing the oral examination during the dental checkup. They do it using an air water syringe.


ADEC dental air water syringe
Air water syringe

The two reasons why we blow air on your teeth is to remove saliva and to check for sensitivity. Yes, those are legitimate reasons and we're not doing it to dry out your mouth!


Remove saliva from teeth

The first reason we blow air on your teeth is to remove the saliva so that we can accurate visualize the tooth.


What happens when saliva is left on the tooth:

  • It obscures our vision and we can't accurately see what is underneath.

  • Saliva can potentially hide a cavity and we may miss the decay if we're not careful!


Below is a photo of a crown that has saliva covering the tooth. As you can see it doesn't look very clear.

Receding gum line with saliva on tooth
Receding gum line with saliva on tooth

The photo below is the same crown as the one above except the saliva has been blown away. Clearly you can see the tooth a LOT better without saliva obscuring the view.


crown with recession where saliva was removed
Receding gum line without saliva on tooth

That is one of the reasons why dentists blow air on your teeth, so that they can see clearly.


 

Check for teeth sensitivity

The second reason we blow air on your teeth is to test it for sensitivity.


If you tell your dentist that your tooth feels sensitive when you drink cold beverages or eat certain foods, the way that they verify it is by blowing air at it.

  • If the air feels uncomfortable then your dentist knows that the tooth is indeed sensitive.

  • However, if the air does not feel uncomfortable, perhaps the sensitivity isn't that bad.


Depending on the severity, your dentist can then give recommendations as for what to do. A sensitive toothpaste may suffice if it isn't that severe but moderate-severe sensitivity will often require some bonding or even gum grafting.


Most of the time, the sensitivity is from receding gums like the photo below.


Severe gum recession on canine
Severe gum recession

Ultimately it is one of the ways that your dentist uses to check for sensitivity to see if it is symptomatic or asymptomatic.


 

Takeaway

Our dentists in Long Island City will always blow air on your teeth during a dental checkup so that we can remove saliva and test for sensitivity. You should expect to have it done if you come see us.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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