Plasma Brush: Better Alternative to Dental Fillings?

Pain-free tool to replace dentist’s drill makes stronger fillings: Are you afraid of the dentist? Almost everyone has some form of tooth decay, but did you know that one in four persons fears going to the dentist?

Next only to the common cold, tooth decay is the second most common health problem. In the United States, tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of children between two and five years old, half of children 12–15 years old, and half of all children 12–19 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But many people fear the dentist because of the pain of tooth extraction caused by drilling to fill in cavities. If you are one of these people, well, it may be time to take heart.

A pain-free substitute to dental fillings called the “plasma brush” is now being tested on human patients, and its inventors believe it could take away some of the pain, noise — and even expense — of getting a dental filling.

According to University of Missouri engineers and their colleagues, the new “gas-firing” device they invented to replace the dentist’s drill is pain-free and could make fillings even more durable.

Resembling an electric toothbrush, the device cleans out cavities in rotten teeth in only 30 seconds, according to Prof. Meng Chen, chief scientist for Nanova Inc., a company formed by several professors that shares a patent on the new technology with the university.

The plasma device works by generating a high-energy gas and liquid particle “flame” that kills bacteria and blasts out the tooth’s decayed pulp at the same time.

The makers says they are one step closer to a painless way to replace fillings and surmise that it could be sold on the dental market as soon as 2013.

After favorable results in the lab, human clinical trials will be undertaken on the “plasma brush”
at the University of Tennessee’s Memphis campus in early 2012, Prof. Chen and his colleagues announce.

The human clinical trials will provide the data that will help Nanova to find investors and take the next steps to releasing the product on the market. And if the studies go well and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves, the plasma brush could be available to dentists by the end of 2013.

“Non-thermal gas plasma treatment will be a painless, tissue-saving method for dental cavity preparation because of its non-destructive nature, and rapid sterilizing capability,” the inventors say.