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Polymers prevent potentially hazardous mist during dentist visit

During a pandemic, the problem of aerosolized saliva droplets at a dentist's office is acute

Date:
August 25, 2020
Source:
American Institute of Physics
Summary:
If the mist in a dentist's office -- sent flying into the air by spinning, vibrating tools -- contains a virus or some other pathogen, it is a health hazard. So researchers studied the viscoelastic properties of food-grade polymers and discovered that the forces of a vibrating tool or dentist's drill are no match for them. Not only did a small admixture of polymers completely eliminate aerosolization, but it did so with ease.
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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago couldn't stop thinking about the spinning, vibrating tools in a dentist's office that turn water into mist and send it flying into the air. If that mist contains a virus or some other pathogen, it is a health hazard for dentists and patients.

In a paper published this week in Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, Alexander Yarin and his colleagues discovered that the forces of a vibrating tool or dentist's drill are no match for the viscoelastic properties of food-grade polymers, such as polyacrylic acid, which they used as a small admixture to water in dental settings.

Their results were surprising. Not only did a small admixture of polymers completely eliminate aerosolization, but it did so with ease, exhibiting fundamental polymer physics, such as coil-stretch transition, that served the intended purpose beautifully.

They tested two FDA-approved polymers. Polyacrylic acid proved more effective than xanthan gum, because in addition to its high elongational viscosity (high elastic stresses in stretching), it revealed a relatively low shear viscosity, which makes pumping it easy.

"What was surprising is that the very first experiment in my lab completely proved the concept," Yarin said. "It was amazing that these materials were capable of so easily and completely suppressing aerosolization by dental tools, with significant inertial forces involved. Nevertheless, the elastic forces generated by small polymer additives were stronger."

Their study documented the violent explosion of pockets of water supplied to teeth and gums that the dental tool aerosolizes. The spraying mist that accompanies a visit to the dentist is the result of water encountering rapid vibration of a tool or the centrifugal force of a drill, which bursts water into tiny droplets and propels these.

The polymer admixture, when used to irrigate, suppresses bursts; instead, polymer macromolecules that stretch like rubber bands restrict water aerosolization. When the tip of a vibrating tool or dental drill plunges into polymer solution, the solution threads into snakelike strands, which are pulled back toward the tip of the tool, altering the usual dynamics seen with pure water in dentistry.

"When droplets try to detach from a liquid body, the droplet tail is stretched. That's where the significant elastic forces associated with the coil-stretch transition of polymer macromolecules come into play," Yarin said. "They suppress tail elongation and pull the droplet back, completely preventing aerosolization."


Story Source:

Materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jevon Plog, Jingwei Wu, Yasmin J. Dias, Farzad Mashayek, Lyndon F. Cooper, Alexander L. Yarin. Reopening dentistry after COVID-19: Complete suppression of aerosolization in dental procedures by viscoelastic Medusa Gorgo. Physics of Fluids, 2020; 32 (8): 083111 DOI: 10.1063/5.0021476

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics. "Polymers prevent potentially hazardous mist during dentist visit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200825113633.htm>.
American Institute of Physics. (2020, August 25). Polymers prevent potentially hazardous mist during dentist visit. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 24, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200825113633.htm
American Institute of Physics. "Polymers prevent potentially hazardous mist during dentist visit." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200825113633.htm (accessed February 24, 2024).

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