Lighting up dentistry

Since 1991, Dental Health Day has been held on September 25. Caring about teeth and cavities has a long tradition: Even in ancient Egypt it was common to “brush your teeth” with baking soda, chewing sticks or a mixture of ground pumice and wine vinegar. Today, more and more modern techniques are using light for effective dental treatment.

It almost goes without saying that illuminating the mouth with high-quality white light ensures greater precision when removing tartar or caries. However, light with special wavelengths is also used. While blue light is used to harden plastic tooth fillings, UV light can help detect caries and cancer. Light applied directly to the tissue can be an effective means of promoting tissue healing and reducing inflammation.

Light-conducting glass fibers from SCHOTT play an important role in this process. They are installed in treatment devices and guide white, blue and ultraviolet light to where it is needed. This works as follows: Each fiber consists of two different glass materials with different refractive indices so that light that enters the fiber is reflected at a certain angle on the cladding material and is then transmitted through the core material. In the production process, hundreds of glass fibers are fused together to form certain complex geometries. The resulting rods are called multi-core components because they consist of many wafer-thin fibers.

These rods can be used to bring light around a corner to the molar tooth, for example. Light enters on one side of the rod and exits on the other side. You can imagine it like a tiny flashlight at the end of a drill bit. In contrast to plastic or electronics, light guide rods are biocompatible and autoclavable: By withstanding temperatures up to 400°C, they can easily be disinfected. In addition, the light guides can be very thin and thus leave space in a dental instrument for other tools.

Rigid light guides in various shapes, angles and cross sections. Photo: SCHOTT.

We are glad that teeth no longer require pulling when there is a cavity and can, instead, be drilled under good lighting conditions exactly where the tooth is damaged. Nevertheless, light guide rods can’t replace good dental hygiene, or course, they can only improve dental treatment. So, make sure you eat healthy, brush your teeth and celebrate the day by… flossing!

September 25th, 2020


Dr. Haike Frank
Lighting and Imaging