During root canal treatment, dentists need to insert a file deep into the root canal to remove the inflamed tissue. Researchers at Fraunhofer IKTS have developed a piezoceramic stack actuator that allows procedures to be performed more quickly.
A new development of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be of interest to anyone who has experienced root canal treatment. The procedure is often necessary if a patient has a deep cavity, and the roots of the tooth have become inflamed. To save the tooth, the dentist opens it up and removes the inflamed tissue inside the root canal using a rotating file. Even when local anesthetic is used, the procedure is exhausting and stressful for patient and dentist alike. This is partially due to the fact that the tissue removed from the root canal sticks to the file and jams it.
As part of the IPUCLEAN (intelligent piezoelectric ultrasonic system for improving the cleaning and cutting capacity of nickel-titanium alloy root canal files) joint research project, researchers at Fraunhofer IKTS in Dresden, Germany, have created an innovative endodontic handpiece that reduces the workload of the dentist and shortens procedure times. To achieve this, under the leadership of Dr. Holger Neubert, department head of Smart Materials and Systems, the team developed a tiny piezoceramic stack actuator that overlays the file’s rotation with axial vibration in the ultrasonic frequency range.
A dental file that rotates and vibrates
A standard dental file rotates around 200 times per minute under the power of an electric motor in the handheld device. It is inserted into the root canal and periodically removed and reinserted. Part of the tissue removed ends up as a sticky mass attached to the file, which reduces its cleaning ability and places strain on the tool. Even though these dental files are made from a superelastic nickel-titanium (NiTi) alloy, there is an increased risk of the files breaking when they are under stress. Because of this, they constantly need to be removed and thoroughly cleaned.
Neubert explains the advantages that using the piezoceramic stack actuator offers: “By overlaying the rotation with axial vibration, the file gets clogged less quickly, meaning that it doesn’t need to be cleaned so often. Dentists are then able to concentrate much more on their complex work in the root canal. The risk of the file breaking is also reduced.” For patients, this means that their root canal treatment is over much faster.