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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Cold Plasma Technology Proves Successful in ODU Teeth-whitening Study

A journal article on the use of plasma technology in teeth whitening, written by Denise Claiborne, lecturer of dental hygiene in Old Dominion's College of Health Sciences when she was a master's student at the university, has been published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene.

The article, "Low-temperature atmospheric pressure plasma (LTAPP) enhanced tooth whitening: the next-generation technology," is based on a study done in collaboration with ODU's Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute (LPEI). It was accepted in April and featured on the health research aggregator site www.MDLinx.com in June.

The study, performed on non-vital human extracted teeth, demonstrates the value of cold plasma technology - pioneered by LPEI director Mounir Laroussi, professor of electrical and computer engineering - in enhancing the teeth-whitening process.

A "plasma pencil" developed by Laroussi was used in the experiment. "it is a really unique tool, because it has the capability of treating specific target areas on the enamel surface," Claiborne said. "The device also proved to be safe and effective."

Working with a sample of 24 teeth, Claiborne and electrical engineering master's student Mehemet Arda Akman compared the effect of using LTAPP via the plasma pencil combined with hydrogen peroxide gel, to the use of hydrogen peroxide gel alone. After just 10 minutes, the experiment found a statistically significant difference in whitening with the use of the plasma pencil and hydrogen peroxide gel, as opposed to using only the gel.

Now, Claiborne said she'd like to work with LPEI researchers on the adaptability and human factors of the experiment, to see how the plasma pencil can be modified to work in a dental setting. "With more research focusing on the methodology, the goal would be to move to clinical trials," Claiborne said.

It means more work with ODU electrical engineers, an experience Claiborne found tremendously rewarding. "I've loved it. They're very detailed, very direct. Mehemet really helped me to think about my research design," Claiborne said.

She is hopeful that her experience in multidisciplinary research can be replicated throughout the College of Health Sciences. Claiborne was Dean Shelley Mishoe's appointee on the Interprofessional Education Collaborative Task Force, a body developed to encourage educational collaborations across disciplines. Her goal, along with fellow task force members, is to not only spread the gospel of cross-disciplinary collaborations across the college, but also to organize and promote a strategic plan. "Our preliminary motto for this is 'It Takes Two,' meaning it only takes two people from different disciplines or colleges to come together to develop interesting research and educational collaborative ideas," Claiborne said.

She noted that Laroussi, Gayle McCombs, professor of dental hygiene, and Meg Lemaster, assistant professor of dental hygiene, provided valuable guidance and mentorship to her and Akman during their collaborative study.

Laroussi's specialty is plasma that can be created in regular atmospheric conditions and can be used - in dental or wound-healing treatments, for example - without burning normal human tissue. Conventional plasma, like that present in lightning and in television sets, is created in the absence of atmospheric pressure and is radically hot.

Cold plasma is made from near room-temperature nontoxic gases and is believed to have no negative long-term side effects.