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Patients and dentists may welcome plasma technology to the war on tooth decay

Plasma jets can destroy the dental bacteria causing decay while saving teeth, scientists reported in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology. The findings could mean that plasma technology will be useful in removing infected tissue in tooth cavities, a procedure that conventionally calls for use of a dental handpiece, the scientists said.

Scientists at the Leibniz-Institute of Surface Modifications, Leipzig, and dentists from the Saarland University, Homburg, Germany, tested the effectiveness of plasma against such common oral pathogens as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus casei. These bacteria form films on the surface of teeth and have the ability to erode tooth enamel and the dentin below it to cause cavities.

Plasmas, the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids and gases, have an increasing number of medical and technical applications, and Dr. Stefan Rupf of Saarland University, who led the research, said recent development of cold plasmas showed great promise for use in dentistry.

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