Researchers have developed computer simulations showing how lasers attack oral bacterial colonies, suggesting that using lasers could lead to better dental health.
In a study published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, the researchers show the results of simulations depicting various laser wavelengths aimed at virtual bacterial colonies buried in gum tissue. In humans, actual bacterial colonies can cause gum inflammation. This can develop into periodontal disease, which involves a more serious infection that breaks down the bones and tissues that support teeth.
“The paper verifies or validates the use of lasers to kill bacteria and contribute to better health following periodontal treatments,” said co-author Lou Reinisch, PhD of New York Institute of Technology.
Drawing on his background in physics, optics, and calculus, Reinisch, an expert in laser surgery, created mathematical models based on optical characteristics of gum tissues and bacteria. He then produced simulations of three different types of lasers commonly used in dentistry and their effects on two types of bacterial colonies of various sizes and depths within the gum models.
“One of the questions we asked is how deep could the bacteria be and still be affected by the laser light,” said Reinisch. The simulations indicate that 810nm diode lasers, when set to short pulses and moderate energy levels, can kill bacteria buried 3mm deep in the soft tissue of the gums. Both lasers spare the healthy tissue, with the simulations showing minimal heating of the surrounding tissue. Minimising the thermal damage leads to faster healing.