Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Light-powered toothbrush could eliminate need for toothpaste

Light-powered toothbrush could eliminate need for toothpaste
One half of modern dentistry's most celebrated coupling could become obsolete, if Japanese manufacturers and a University of Saskatchewan researcher have their way.

The Shiken Company of Japan is looking for ways to take dentistry into the future - a time when your toothbrush may no longer need your toothpaste to get the job done.

The company is making a prototype solar-powered toothbrush, which causes a chemical reaction in your mouth, with the hopes of improving the elimination of harmful plaque and bacteria.

Closer to home, U Sask dentistry professor emeritus Dr. Kunio Komiyama and his colleague Dr. Gerry Uswak are investigating whether the new gizmo works any better than the more traditional toothbrush-toothpaste duo.

Dr. Komiyama designed the first model of this type of toothbrush more than 15 years ago: It contained a titanium dioxide rod in the neck of the brush, just below the nylon bristles. Any light falling on the wet rod would release electrons, which would react to the acid typically found in the mouth, helping break down plaque.

The latest model, the Soladey-J3X, works in much in the same way, except that it's twice as powerful.

The brush also features a solar panel at the base, which transmits electrons to the top of the toothbrush through a lead wire.

Dr. Komiyama tested Soladey-J3X on cultures of two types of bacteria that play a major role in periodontal disease. He found that there was a "complete destruction of bacterial cells," according to the Edmonton Journal.

The toothbrush needs about as much light as a solar-powered calculator.

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