A picosecond Nd:YLF laser system was used to remove sound and carious enamel by the mechanism of plasma-induced ablation. The plasma spark was optically imaged onto the entrance pupil of a spectrometer. The spectra were scanned between 400 - 700 nm with a typical resolution of 0.2 nm. Calcium in neutral and singly ionized states and the sodium doublet at 589 nm were observed. The second harmonic of the laser wavelength was generated in an external BBO crystal, thereby converting about 10 (mu) J of the pulse energy to radiation at 527 nm. The amplitude of the diffuse reflected second harmonic was used as a reference signal for normalization of the spectra. Several sound and artificial caries regions of different teeth were investigated. The spectra obtained from caries always showed a strong decrease in amplitude of all mineral lines, if compared to sound enamel. These results can be explained by the demineralization process of dental decay. Thus, caries infected teeth are easily distinguished from sound probes, enabling a computer controlled caries removal in the near future. The possible setup of such an automated system is discussed.
Markolf H. Niemz,
"Diagnosis of caries by spectral analysis of laser-induced plasma sparks", Proc. SPIE 2327, Medical Applications of Lasers II, (23 December 1994); doi: 10.1117/12.197590; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.197590