We present finite element models of human dental enamel that account for water-pores known to exist in this material, and use them to assess the influence of these pores on the temperature and stress profiles during and after single Er:YAG (2.9 micrometer) and CO2 (10.6 micrometer) laser pulses of duration 0.35 microsec. Our results indicate that the temperature maximum is reached at the water-pores at the end of the laser pulse; this maximum seems to be independent of pore size for the CO2 laser but appears to be strongly dependent of pore size for the Er:YAG laser. The pressure reached at the water pore seems to be directly related to the temperature at the pore and it is significantly higher that the stress levels reached throughout the modelled structure, which indicates that water pores should play a significant role in the ablation mechanisms, even before water vaporization takes place. These results suggest that researchers conducting enamel ablation by Er:YAG lasers - or other lasers with wavelengths for which the absorption coefficients of the mineral and the water differ significantly - may want to select their samples and analyse their results taking into account factors that may alter the degree of mineralization of a tooth, such as age or type of tooth.
A mesoscopic simulation of the process of human enamel laser ablation by Er:YAG and CO2 lasers is being developed using the finite element method, taking into account the complex structure and chemical composition of this material.
A geometric model that allows studying in detail the temperature, stress and displacement distribution within a few enamel rods is presented. The heat generation that takes place inside the enamel at the centre of the laser spot, caused by a non-ablative laser pulse emitted by CO2 and Er:YAG lasers, was simulated. The sensitivity of our model to the estimated material parameters was studied. Temperature, displacement and stress distribution maps obtained for both lasers are presented. These preliminary results suggest that the temperature distribution across the enamel rods is different in the two situations considered; thermally induced stresses in the material are higher in the regions that are richer in hydroxyapatite (HA), and the higher displacements are observed in the regions that are rich in water. The rod tails inside enamel present higher stresses in the direction perpendicular to the surface of enamel than the ones that are created at the surface of our simulated structure. We conclude that the mesostructure plays a crucial role in the accurate modelling of dental laser ablation.