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Painless Plasma Jets Could Replace Dentist's Drill

Plasma jets capable of obliterating tooth decay-causing bacteria could be an effective and less painful alternative to the dentist's drill, according to a new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Firing low temperature plasma beams at dentin -- the fibrous tooth structure underneath the enamel coating -- was found to reduce the amount of dental bacteria by up to 10,000-fold. The findings could mean plasma technology is used to remove infected tissue in tooth cavities -- a practice that conventionally involves drilling into the tooth.

Scientists at the Leibniz-Institute of Surface Modifications, Leipzig and dentists from the Saarland University, Homburg, Germany, tested the effectiveness of plasma against common oral pathogens including Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus casei. These bacteria form films on the surface of teeth and are capable of eroding tooth enamel and the dentin below it to cause cavities. If left untreated it can lead to pain, tooth loss and sometimes severe gum infections. In this study, the researchers infected dentin from extracted human molars with four strains of bacteria and then exposed it to plasma jets for 6, 12 or 18 seconds. The longer the dentin was exposed to the plasma the greater the amount of bacteria that were eliminated.
 
 

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