June 11, 2009

Plasma probe fights deep tooth infections

U.S. researchers say they have developed a plasma device that fights biofilm infections in a manner that could revolutionize many facets of medicine.

University of Southern California dentistry and engineering scientists created a probe that emits room temperature plasma as it fights tough bacterial colonies deep inside a human tooth.

Atomic oxygen appears to be the antibacterial agent, according to plasma emission spectroscopy obtained during the experiments, electrical engineering-electrophysics Assistant Professor Chunqi Jiang said.

Assistant Professor of clinical dentistry Parish Sedghizadeh said the oxygen free radicals might be disrupting the cellular membranes of the biofilms, causing their demise and that the plasma plume's adjustable, fluid reach allows the disinfection to occur even in hard-to-reach areas of a tooth.

The researchers are optimistic about the device's future dental and medical uses.

Plasma is the future, Sedghizadeh said. It's been used before for other sterilization purposes, but not for clinical medical applications and we hope to be the first to apply it in a clinical setting.

The study appears in the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers.