Cavities and other forms of tooth damage are caused by demineralization of enamel, which is stronger than bone yet still subject to softened areas. Sometimes the demineralization goes unnoticed until the damage is done because current methods of identifying precarious areas are less-than-perfect. For example, visual assessment often leads to overlooking and sharp instruments can harm teeth and gums.
“The ultimate goal is to come up with a quick, efficient, cost-effective, and non-destructive way to evaluate the mineralization of human dental enamel,” University of Sydney graduate student David Hsiao-Chuan said of his recent efforts to develop new assessment technology. The result: a laser.
By watching how a tooth responds to laser pulses that trigger ultrasonic waves along its surface, dentists can ascertain the enamel’s elasticity, which directly corresponds to mineral content.
This uniquely harmless method of examining enamel can help dentists identify potentially problematic areas and prescribe preventative treatments that may be far less invasive than corrective treatments. However, more testing needs to be completed before a device shows up in your doctor’s office, and that may take years.
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