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Sticker Shock!

Photonics Spectra
Aug 1999
Michael D. Wheeler, News Editor

The dental drill instills dread in millions of patients each year. Many find the vibration and high-pitched sound irritating and unpleasant. But for decades, the drill was the only widely accepted method for decay removal, and dentists and patients alike longed for an alternative.

The arrival of two technologies, air abrasion and dental lasers, marked the first step in this direction. Air abrasion uses a fine, precisely controlled high-pressure stream of aluminum oxide to remove enamel, dentin and decay. Dental lasers remove decay through the absorption of energy in either hard or soft tissue. Despite publicity and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals, neither threatens to depose the drill for decay removal in the next five years.

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