Lasers Aid Dentistry by Fighting Root Canal Bacteria

High-tech lasers in dentistry are generally used to prepare cavities for restoration, but researchers are finding they may be useful in helping to eliminate bacteria in root canals, too.

A group of Austrian researchers say it’s possible through the development of miniaturized, flexible fiber tips that allow for the laser to be used in endodontic (root canal) treatment.

Dr. Ulrich Schoop and his colleagues at the University of Vienna dental school used 60 extracted human teeth with one root each to test the effects of laser irradiation on root canals using an erbium, chromium:yttrium-scandium-gallium-garnet (Er,Cr:YSGG) laser.

The researchers inoculated the root canals with one of two types of bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli) and then irradiated the canals using either a 1- or 1.5-watt power setting. The laser reduced the amount of E. coli at the lower power setting, they found, and reduced it to below the detection level at the higher setting. It also was effective in eliminating E. faecalis.

In their research published in the July issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), the authors concluded that the Er,Cr:YSGG laser may be suitable for cleaning and disinfecting root canals, and that it can be used safely if the common precautions for using lasers are observed and the energy levels and irradiation times are within the proposed range.

Another article in the same issue of JADA describes a Temple University study of an Er,Cr:YSGG laser with a new tip that emits radiation radially.

Dr. Roy H. Stevens and colleagues at Temple’s Kornberg School of Dentistry examined the efficiency of this new laser tip in disinfecting root canal dentin walls infected with E. faecalis and concluded that it significantly reduced the amount of the bacteria in contaminated root canals.

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