If you’ve ever had a cavity filled, or some other type of small restoration, you may have seen your dentist use a strange-looking instrument emitting a blue light during your treatment. In today’s Statesville family dentistry blog, we answer all your questions about what the “blue light” is, and how it helped revolutionize the world of dentistry.
When you have a cavity, your dentist removes the decayed material with a small drill and cleans the area. Then, he or she uses tooth-colored resin to fill the area. While fillings can be made of gold, silver amalgam, or porcelain, resin is often preferred because it’s easy to mold and can be matched to the color of the original tooth.
Finally, the resin is cured with a device that emits a precise wavelength of blue light. Most LED curing devices emit a narrow spectrum of blue light in the 400–500 nm range, which activates the CPQ molecule present in the dental resin. As a result, the resin undergoes a rapid curing process (or, in scientific terms, a photo-polymerization effect).
LED curing lights are only the latest innovation in dental light-curing technology. As early as the 1960s, dental scientists have experimented with UV lights, halogen lights, and plasma arc curing lights, experiencing various issues and drawbacks with each. For instance, halogen curing lights, the predecessor to LEDs, used immense heat which could harm the patient, unless a cooling fan was focused on the area during treatment. Plasma arc curing lights were expensive to purchase and to maintain, and UV curing lights were both harmful and ineffective, as their short ultraviolet waves often did not penetrate deeply enough into the resin to cure it.
Finally, the development of LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) in the 1990s led to the creation of a greatly improved curing light. Unlike previous models, LED curing devices are lightweight, fast, portable, affordable, and effective. They consume very little energy, and can even use rechargeable batteries. An LED curing light can harden dental resin in 20-60 seconds, after which point you will be able to apply chewing pressure without fear of injuring the fragile dentin and tooth pulp beneath it.
You, and even your dentist, might not think about the curing light very much. But this small, unimportant-seeming tool has a long history of trial, error, struggle, and innovation behind it.
Before light-curing devices, dentists had to mix two materials, a base material A and catalyst material B, to form a self-curing reaction. The substance was mixed separately and placed in the tooth, where it took 30-60 seconds to harden. As you can imagine, this meant the dentist had to work fast, and if the material was improperly placed, it had to be excavated and the process started over again. Light-activated curing tools revolutionized the world of dentistry—so that little blue light in your mouth means a simple cavity filling is a fast, easy procedure, with no mess-ups or starting over!
Our Statesville dentist office specializes in cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, preventative dentistry, and more. We provide Statesville adults and children with tooth cleaning, same-day crowns, professional tooth whitening, and cavity fillings. To request an appointment, please click here.