Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
The flying mist in a dentist's office given off by spinning and vibrating tools could potentially contain a virus or some other pathogen and be a health hazard.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago recently studied the viscoelastic properties of food-grade polymers and the findings were published in Physics of Fluids.
The research revealed that the forces of a vibrating tool or dentist's drill are no match for the viscoelastic properties of food-grade polymers, such as polyacrylic acid, which they used as a small admixture to water in dental settings, Not only did a small admixture of polymers completely eliminate aerosolization, but it did so with ease, exhibiting fundamental polymer physics, such as coil-stretch transition.
FDA-approved polymers for dental safety
Two FDA-approved polymers were tested. Polyacrylic acid was more effective than xanthan gum because of its high elongational viscosity and a relatively low shear viscosity, which makes pumping it easy.
"What was surprising is that the very first experiment in my lab completely proved the concept," says researcher Alexander Yarin, a Russian-American engineer, Distinguished Professor at University of Illinois, Chicago and Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society.
"It was amazing that these materials were capable of so easily and completely suppressing aerosolization by dental tools, with significant inertial forces involved. Nevertheless, the elastic forces generated by small polymer additives were stronger."
The study details how a dental tool aerosolizes the violent explosion of pockets of water supplied to teeth and gums. The spraying mist that accompanies a visit to the dentist is the result of water encountering rapid vibration of a tool or the centrifugal force of a drill, which bursts water into tiny droplets and propels these.
When used to irrigate the mouth and teeth during a dental visit, the polymer admixture suppresses bursts, and the polymer macromolecules that stretch like rubber bands restrict water aerosolization. When the tip of a vibrating tool or dental drill plunges into polymer solution, the solution threads into snakelike strands, which are pulled back toward the tip of the tool, altering the usual dynamics seen with pure water in dentistry.
"When droplets try to detach from a liquid body, the droplet tail is stretched,” Yarin added. “That's where the significant elastic forces associated with the coil-stretch transition of polymer macromolecules come into play. They suppress tail elongation and pull the droplet back, completely preventing aerosolization."
Dental safety during the pandemic
Dentist offices have made changes to prevent coronavirus transmission since reopening, but some patients are still apprehensive about making an appointment.
A visit to the dentist is low risk according to current knowledge of the virus and it’s important to keep up with dental visits.
It is safe because of the precautions dentists are taking, says Cecile A. Feldman, dean of Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. In keeping with American Dentistry Association guidelines, patients at her dental school are screened for symptoms both the night before and the day of an appointment.
The school requires patients to wear face coverings when entering the building and providers wear gowns, gloves, face shields, head covers, surgical gowns and N95 masks.
Feldman says it’s important to continue dental visits during the pandemic because untreated dental disease is only going to get worse. There’s a link between oral health and systemic health, for example, poor periodontal health is associated with heart disease.
The CDC issued guidelines for re-opening of most dental offices in June 2020, and the American Dentistry Association encouraged regular dental visits. The World Health Organization recommends continuing routine care except in hot spots where there is “intense uncontrolled community transmission.”
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.