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Laser Dentist Drill

Photonics.com
Jul 2008
LONDON, England, July 21, 2008 – The dreaded dentist drill may have finally met its match. Thanks to a team of researchers at King’s College in London, a painless new treatment has been developed using Raman spectroscopy.

Raman spectroscopy is most commonly used to distinguish between different chemicals by identifying each molecule’s unique fingerprint. In dentistry, this technology can be used to detect the first signs of decay simply and painlessly by pointing an optical fiber at the tooth to detect chemical changes within.

Researchers were able to tell healthy teeth from decaying teeth because light from the laser scatters differently due to bacteria.

This new technology, which may be available in dental surgeries in five years from now, could greatly reduce the need for drilling and filling simply by way of early detection.

According to Dr. Frederic Festy, who is supervising the project, decaying teeth are currently uncovered either by visual examination or the use of x-rays, but usually by then, the damage has been done and the decayed area must be drilled out. However, Dr. Steven Hogg, a microbiologist at Newcastle University's dental school, confirms that it is possible to repair teeth with a special mouthwash or fluoride varnish if dental decay is caught early enough.

Festy is planning a larger trial using more teeth samples and hopes to move onto human trials soon. The key to this technique is its simplicity, however he explains that the downside of developing the machines is the cost and the time it takes to do a scan – 30 seconds can be a long time for any patient to remain perfectly still.

The results of this preliminary study were presented at Microscience 2008, held last month in London.

For more information, visit: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ 


 



GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
raman spectroscopy
That branch of spectroscopy concerned with Raman spectra and used to provide a means of studying pure rotational, pure vibrational and rotation-vibration energy changes in the ground level of molecules. Raman spectroscopy is dependent on the collision of incident light quanta with the molecule, inducing the molecule to undergo the change.  
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