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dual coupler

dual coupler

RF amplifier

RF amplifier













grounded box

grounded box

glass tube

glass tube



metal wire

Plasma treatment of dental caries

R.E.J. Sladek, R. Walraven, E. Stoffels, P.J.A. Tielbeek, R.A. KoolhovenDepartment of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands

E-mail: [email protected]

Dental caries

In dentistry dental cavities (Figure 1) as a result of caries are a major problem. Cavities in teeth can be cleaned and/or sterilised by mechanically drilling or laser techniques. In both methods heating or vibrations can take place and this can be painful for the patient (heating and vibrations can irritate the nerve).

Temperature measurements

Temperature measurements will be made during plasma treatment. The thermo sensor (pt-100) is

inserted into the pulp chamber like in Figure 5 and the temperature is recorded.

Also a temperature distribution model in Matlab® is made. The model is compared to the experiment.

According to Zach and Cohen, an increase in intra-pulpal temperature below 2.2 C fall within the safe

range of thermal stress.

Dental plaque experiment

Plasma treatment on dental plaque will be investigated ex-vivo by confocal microscopy (CLSM) and vital

fluorescence techniques. Plaque is collected on enamel slabs. The slabs are inserted into acrylic splints

worn by participants.


Our goal is to find a less destructive (no fractures) and less painful approach to clean dental cavities. This may be done by use of a non-thermal atmospheric plasma.

Figure 1: Dental cavity (left), caries (right).

Why plasma?

Plasma is an efficient source of various radicals, capable of bacterial decontamination, while it operates at room temperature and does not cause bulk destruction of the tissue.

The advantage of this novel tissue-saving treatment is that it is superficial and that the plasma can easily penetrate the cavity, which is not possible with lasers. Also the use of plasmas is relatively cheap compared to the use of lasers.

Figure 5: Radiograph of electrical

thermistor implanted within the pulp

chamber (Miserendino et al. 1989).

Figure 6: CLSM vital-stained 2-day-old plaque on

Enamel. Thickness up to 32 m. Magnification x500.

(Netuschil et al. 1998)


It has been verified that there is only little temperature increase (1 – 5 °C) in the gas

and even less in dental tissue.

First x-ray measurements showed no damage to the mineralised matrix.

gas inlet

gas inlet

Figure 2: Experimental set-up

(closed not-vacuum tight box).

Figure 3: A scheme of the experimental set-up.

Figure 4: Portable plasma needle.

Experimental set-up

RF- driven ‘plasma needle’ in closed (not vacuum-tight) box (Figure 2)

Wire (0,3 mm ) in a glass tube (Figure 2 and 3).

Because of the glass tube, the plasma stays at the tip of the needle.

Experimental parametersGas He (2 l/min)RF frequency 9-14MHz

Power dissipated in plasma  0.2 W

Voltage  300 -500 V

Prototype of portable plasma needle (Figure 4)

Under development (is working!, see Figure 8 )

Figure 7: Temperature distribution in

cylinder of dentine (rplasma=1 mm, Qin=2000 J/m2 . s).

Figure 8:

  • Conclusions
  • little temperature increase
  • ‘So far so good’

Future plans

Dental plaque experiments

In the near future we will investigate the efficiency of plasma-aided destruction of bacteria present in dental plaque using a standard bacterial viability kit.