The phrase "no pain, no gain" may someday not apply to the dentist's office, according to a team developing a drill-free cavity treatment.
The technique may be available to dentists and their relieved patients in the future, say University of Missouri-Columbia inventors.
They're working on a non-thermal plasma brush that uses a low-temperature chemical reaction to disinfect and prepare cavities for filling.
In typical (and often painful) cavity repair, the dentist drills away the affected area and then makes a filling to restore the tooth's shape. The vibration and noise can be very uncomfortable for many patients.
May replace drilling
"Successful development of the plasma brush could replace the painful and destructive drilling currently practiced in dentistry," Hao Li, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at University of Missouri-Columbia, said in a prepared statement.
The brush will operate without the heat and vibrations that cause the pain and discomfort associated with the current procedure. The researchers say it will also be silent.
"Plasma treatment would be a painless, nondestructive and tissue-saving way to care for and treat cavities because it relies on chemical reactions instead of heat or mechanical interactions," Qingsong Yu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said in a prepared statement. "The chemical bonding between teeth and fillings that the plasma treatment would create would be much stronger than dentists currently get with drills or laser techniques," Yu added.
Yu and Yixiang Duan, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have filed two US patent applications for the brush.
The researchers also promise that the brush will alter the tooth's surface, creating a stronger bond with the filling.