More comfortable visits to the dentist could be part of the future, thanks to a plasma brush which is currently being developed.
Following favourable lab results, human clinical trials are now being done on the tool, which uses chemical reactions to clean out and disinfect teeth with cavities. It also creates a strong bond for fillings.
“There have been no side effects reported during the lab trials, and we expect the human trials to help us improve the prototype,” said Qingsong Yu, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri, and Meng Chen, chief scientist from Nanova, Inc., in a press release.
The university and the company hold a patent for the plasma brush.
Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the university, said that a tooth can only support two or three restorations.
"Our studies indicate that fillings are 60 percent stronger with the plasma brush, which would increase the filling lifespan," he added. "This would be a big benefit to the patient, as well as dentists and insurance companies.”
Popsci explains that the tool, although it is "no hotter than room temperature, is excellent at breaking the bonds that adhere plaque to a tooth."
Researchers hope to begin human clinical trials early in 2012, and say that if things go well the plasma brush could be in use by dentists as early as the end of 2013.
In January 2010 the BBC reported that researchers from Saarland University in Homburg, Germany were working with "plasma jets."
"Drilling is a very uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience. Cold plasma, in contrast, is a completely contact-free method that is highly effective," Dr Stefan Rupf said at that time, adding that he expected plasma treatment for cavities to be available in three to five years.