In a recent study, researchers develop computer simulations showing how lasers can attack oral bacterial colonies.
Based on the results, they suggest that benefits of using lasers in dental treatment include killing bacteria and promoting better tooth health.
The study is published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.
In humans, bacterial colonies can cause gingivitis, or gum inflammation. Gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease, which involves a more serious infection that breaks down the bones and tissues that support teeth.
In the study, one of the questions researchers asked was how deep could the bacteria be and still be affected by the laser light.
To answer the question, researchers created mathematical models based on optical characteristics of gum tissues and bacteria.
They then produced simulations of 3 different types of lasers commonly used in dentistry and their effects on two types of bacterial colonies of various sizes and depths within the gum models.
The simulations indicated that 810 nm diode lasers, when set to short pulses and moderate energy levels, could kill bacteria buried 3 mm deep in the soft tissue of the gums. The 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser was also effective with similar penetration depth.
Both lasers spared the healthy tissue with the simulations showing minimal heating of the surrounding tissue. Minimizing the thermal damage led to faster healing.
The result verifies or validates the laser treatment to kill bacteria and contribute to better health following periodontal treatments.
The findings are important because it opens up the possibility of tweaking the wavelength, power, and pulse duration to be the most effective for killing bacteria.
The cost of dental laser treatment can range from $5,000 to over $100,000, and health care professionals require extra training to use them.
These costs are passed on to the patient, so there must be a definite benefit for the patient to justify these costs.
Guided by the results presented in this study, researchers expect that clinical trials will be designed to validate the findings.
Citation: Harris DM, Reinisch L. (2016). Selective photoantisepsis. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, published online. DOI: 10.1002/lsm.22568.
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