Whether you are a practicing dentist, orthodontist, or studying to become one, the UV curing effect of a dental curing light is an important aspect of the science of your profession. But, to briefly get beyond the science aspect, curing lights greatly reduce the time patients must spend in the chair, helping to ensure minimal discomfort, and fewer future repairs.
The industry standard has been halogen dental curing lights for many years. Now, laser and LED have given us a little more choice in dental materials used for curing. They all provide the blue light needed for curing, but they operate a little differently. The key is finding the one which best matches your style, and your practice.
Best Dental Curing Light For Your Practice
Here's an important piece of information. Intensity is the most important factor in choosing a dental curing light. Unfortunately, there is no optimum dental curing light intensity for all applications.
Read this carefully: Required intensity may vary depending on the absorption spectrum of the photoinitiator in your particular brand of dental curing materials.
Its very important to note, at this point, the type curing materials you use and purchase your dental curing light accordingly. A unit offering variable wavelength may be a good choice, in case you change materials down the line.
Dental Curing Light Technology
Photoinitiator is not only a bit of a mouth full, but an excellent term to use in beginning to understand the technology behind the dental curing light. All materials have properties which are affected by heat and light. Photoinitiators are chemicals in dental curing materials that allow for that change in properties which harden when exposed to the dental curing light. Most photoinitiators currently used in dental materials absorb light in the 400-500 nanometer (nm) range. Most however, have an optimum intensity and wavelength which will produce the most efficient cure.
Dental Curing Light Bulbs
Early on, the most common curing light bulbs were halogen. More specifically quartz-tungsten-halogen (QTH). Powerful bulb, lots of heat, filters reduce spectrum to useable length, relatively inexpensive but reflectors and filters break down, reducing effectiveness. Believe it or not, one of the best places to find new and used dental curing lights is Ebay. One of the most popular QTH lights is the Kerr Optilux. Take a look at a few for sale on Ebay here → Optilux Dental Curing Lights on Ebay.
Along come the light-emitting diode (LED) type which provide a little less heat (actually a lot less) which obviously results in less need for cooling and lower energy consumption. Still not the answer to all applications, as you will see, due to the new curing materials being developed. However, LED type curing lights provide a very cost effective alternative if they happen to fit your system. Kerr also produces one of the most effective LED dental curing lights available. Click the following link to view the Kerr Demi and Demi Plus units available on Ebay. Kerr Demi LED Dental Curing Light.
One relatively new technology in dental curing light bulbs involves plasma-arc (PAC). These use a high energy pulse that creates hot plasma between two electrodes in a xenon-filled bulb. PAC dental curing lights actually create a broad enough spectrum to work with most available curing materials, but the xenon bulbs can be expensive. PAC units are also often used as bleaching units. See plasma-arc (PAC) units here.
- QTH - Broad Spectrum, inexpensive, but high heat and frequent bulb replacement
- LED - Less heat, lower energy consumption, long lasting bulbs, may require a little longer curing times.
- PAC - Super high energy (2400 mW/cm2), highly effective over broad range, expensive
Dental Curing Materials
Traditionally, dental curing composite systems contained camphoroquinone (CQ) which absorbs energy in the visible-light region of 400 to 500 nanometers with a peak at 468 nanometers. New photoinitiators have been introduced by manufacturers to reduce the intensity of the yellow color produced with CQ. These new photoinitiators absorb light energy in lower regions of the visible-light spectrum. Examples would be phenyl-propanedione (PPD) and Lucirin (TPO). Both, PPD and TPO photoinitiators absorb light energy in lower regions of the visible-light spectrum.
Curing Materials Summary:
- CQ - peak curing wavelength - 468 nm
- TPO - peak curing wavelength - 410 nm
- PPD - peak curing wavelength - 410 nm
Common Dental Curing Light Uses
- The obvious, hardening resin for most any cementing application
- Keeping braces properly placed
- Keeping fillings in place by hardening resin faster
- Making sure veneers and dental implants stay in place
Why Use A Dental Curing Light?
Nothing can reduce patient flow more quickly than having to complete a process twice. Fillings that are left to air dry can crack or possibly not adhere to the tooth evenly. Even a slight crack or possibly a section of a veneer that does not adhere properly can lead to time consuming work later on, frustrating the patient and costing the dentist time and money. Basically, a curing light will do the following:
- For sealants: greatly reduces the risk of cracks and other problems associated with drying resin
- For applying fillings: keeps the filling in place in the mouth by ensuring the resin cures properly and the filling adheres to the tooth evenly
- For adhesives used with braces and dental implants: limits future problems by making sure initial application of the braces or implants is secure and even
A good dental curing light would likely be a valuable asset to most practices. It's uses are varied, and many. However, it's greatest value should be enjoyed by your patients, with less time in the chair, and fewer returns.
If you're still on the fence about the need for dental curing light unit. Maybe a cordless model would be nice to have around, just in case. Many are available, but none surpass the quality of the Bonart units. See Bonart dental curing lights here.
And remember, any dental curing light used in the US must be approved by the FDA. While dental curing light technology is proven safe and effective, UV exposure is regulated due to possible free radical damage to patient tissue. It's also helpful to regularly have units checked for accuracy using a radiometer. Some of the higher end dental curing light units have radiometers as an integral part of the system. Radiometers can also be purchased separately. Take a look here at some common radiometers used to check dental curing lights. Dental Curing Light Radiometers.