17 Jun 2002
Work by NASA to develop high power lasers for remote sensing of the atmosphere has produced a spin-off in dentistry.
The device produces two laser wavelengths important to dentists from a single system. At the flick of a switch, the laser could operate as a dentist's drill on teeth or as a scalpel for gum treatment.
At the moment, dentists have to buy two expensive laser systems which explains why only 5% of practising dentists in the United States use lasers.
Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center at Hampton, Virginia, say that the dual-wavelength unit would cost less than $30,000 which is less than half the cost of two separate systems for hard and soft tissue.
They also claim that the device will be virtually painless and should require no anaesthetic for most patients.
Both wavelengths are produced with the same hardware reducing complexity and approximately halving the size of two distinct laser systems. Switching is between the two wavelengths by selecting the amount and rate of energy pumped into the system. The installation needs no tuning by an operator as in present systems.
Lantis Laser Inc of Hewitt, New Jersey, has been working with NASA Langley to explore the system's commercial potential. Assuming Food and Drug Administration approval of the technology, sales of the device could begin by the end of 2001.
The dual wavelength technology has been by NASA in aeronautics research to measure winds, wind shear and turbulence in flight and for the measurement of wake vortices from the ground in airport terminal areas. This work led to the discovery that it was possible to selectively produce two or more useful wavelengths from this particular single source. PH
Story courtesy of Opto and Laser Europe magazine.