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Cold plasma jets have been found to eliminate oral bacteria. (DTI/Photo Perov Stanislav)
Feb 1, 2010 | News Europe

Interview: 'Plasma jets should be integrated into dental hand pieces'

by Jeannette Enders, DT Germany

Firing low temperature plasma beams at dentin reduces the amount of dental bacteria by up to 10,000-fold, a new study from Germany has found. Dental Tribune Germany Editor Jeannette Enders spoke with Dr Stefan Rupf, Saarland University Dental Hospital in Homburg, and Dr Axel Schindler, Leibniz Institute of Surface Modification in Leipzig, about their research and its future impact on dentistry.

Jeannette Enders: Dr Rupf, how did the idea to use plasma jet technology for dentistry developed?
Dr Rupf: Plasma jets are used primarily to work surfaces that are essential to produce, for example, high-performance optical lenses in the near future. My colleague Dr Schindler had the idea to take, after the long-time development phase of a miniaturized plasma jet source with body-like temperatures in the Institute for Surface Modification in Leipzig came to an successful end.

Cold plasma allows us to generate surface temperatures of less than 40 degrees Celsius at the point of impact. Through these cold atmospheric plasma jets, cleaning and hydrophilisation of surfaces with biologically acceptable temperatures is possible. Two years ago, Mr Schindler then visited the dental clinic at the University of Leipzig in search for a research collaboration.

Could you explain the implemented study in further detail?
Dr Rupf: In our study, we examined the antibacterial efficiency of plasma toward oral pathogens, such as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus casei. Dentin from extracted human molars were contaminated with four different bacterial strains and exposed to plasma for 6, 12, or 18 seconds. We found that the longer the dentin was irradiated, the higher the reduction was in bacteria.

What could be a possible treatment procedure incorporating this technology look like?
Dr Schindler: I think that plasma jets should be integrated into dental hand pieces. Technically this won’t be much of a challenge as those devices are already highly miniaturized.

Dr Rupf: Treatment with plasma jets requires to continuously lead the plasma jet over the treated area. As plasma jets are very flexible and locally effective, they will allows us to treat enamel, dentin and cementum very gently. The procedure promises therapy measures which could not only stand the test in dental medicine, but also in surgery and dermatology.

How long will it take before the procedure will be tested on patients?
Dr Schindler: We already look forward to test the procedure on patients this year. As far as marketability is concerned, we expect another three to five years to go by before it will be available to dentistry.

Thank you for the interview!

(Translation provided by Annemarie Fischer)

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