In an effort to make a trip to the dentist's office more comfortable, German researchers have been investigating the use of plasma jets, which could provide a painless alternative to the traditional drill.
According to a study that will be published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology, firing low temperature plasma beams at teeth can reduce the amount of dental bacteria in a patient's mouth by up to 10,000 times, HealthDay News reports.
The scientists believe that the new technology could be used to excise infected tissue in cavities, in lieu of the dentist's drill.
"Drilling is a very uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience," said the study's lead author, Dr Stefan Rupf of Saarland University.
He added that "cold plasma, in contrast, is a completely contact-free method that is highly effective."
Specifically, the plasma jets target the fibrous tooth structure found beneath the enamel coating, called dentin. The researchers exposed infected tissues to plasma jets for between six and 18 seconds.
The longer the tooth was exposed to the treatment, the greater the number of bacteria that were eliminated, according to the study.
Patients who regularly visit their family dentist can expect the plasma technology to be used in clinical practice within three to five years, Rumpf told BBC News.
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