Blasting dental plaque with microbubbles

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A superior method for removing plaque from dental implants that involves blasting them with microbubbles has been developed by researchers in Japan—and is described in a recent issue of Implant Dentistry.

Just like normal teeth, dental implants require proper care and oral hygiene to prevent complications, such as the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the implants. While the build-up of dental plaque sticks mainly to the crown, it also adheres to the exposed parts of the screw that holds the dental fixture in place—parts that are much harder to clean because they contain microgrooves that make them fit better into the upper or lower jawbones.

With the aim of investigating better ways for dentists to remove this plaque and prevent complications, Hitoshi Soyama from Tohoku University and his team from Showa University compared the cleaning effect of a cavitating jet to that of a water jet, which has been used for a long time to remove plaque from dental implants to keep them clean.

dental plaque
The researchers used a certain type of nozzle to create the cavitation bubbles which removed the plaque when they collapsed. Credit: Hitoshi Soyama

With a cavitating jet, high-speed fluid is injected by a nozzle through water to create very tiny bubbles of vapour. When these bubbles collapse, they produce strong shockwaves that are able to remove contaminants.

First, the researchers grew a biofilm over three days within the mouths of four volunteers. Then they proceeded to clean this with the two different methods, measuring the amount of plaque remaining at several time intervals.

While there was little difference between the amounts of dental plaque removed by both methods after one minute of cleaning, that changed after longer exposure. After three minutes, the cavitating jet had removed about a third more plaque than the water jet, leaving little plaque stuck to the implant at the end of the experiment.

The cavitating jet was also able to remove the plaque not only from the root section of the screws, but also from the harder-to-reach crest section, though to a lesser extent.

“Conventional methods cannot clean plaques on the surface of dental implants very well, so this new method could give dentists a new tool to better manage these fixtures which are becoming more common,” Soyama said.

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