You probably know about the ozone layer in our planet’s stratosphere. We were all scared when we learned that it had a growing hole in it due to our overuse of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since then, we’ve reduced our use of CFCs quite a bit. The problem hasn’t gone away, but the hole’s not growing quite so fast.
The German chemist C.D. Schonbein discovered ozone in 1840, and its first medical application was documented in 1870, when it was used to purify blood in test tubes.
The first clinical uses of ozone came in the early decades of the 20th century by a Swiss dentist named Dr. Fisch. It was later adopted by the surgeon Dr. Payr as a disinfectant. Currently in the US, hundreds of cities and towns use ozone to remove pathogens from water, as well as to treat certain metals.
What Is Ozone?
Ozone is a gas molecule made up of three atoms of oxygen. It occurs naturally in the presence of ultraviolet radiation or after a lightning strike. At the oceanfront, you can smell ozone when the waves break against the shore.
Ozone is highly negatively charged, which is why it’s so effective in medicine. It’s a powerful oxidizer that will effectively kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses at much lower concentrations than chlorine, with none of the toxic side effects.
A single molecule of ozone is equal to 3,000 to 10,000 molecules of chlorine, yet it kills pathogens 3500 times faster.
Ozone in Dentistry
To create our oxygen/ozone infusions, we use medical grade oxygen that passes through a device that works like a small lightning chamber. Some of the oxygen gets converted to ozone.
Therapeutic ozone permeates our practice. At the start of every day, we add medical grade oxygen/ozone to distilled water to nearly a 99.5% oxygen to ozone ratio. This is the water we use in all of our delivery systems.
When we are preparing a tooth with a high speed drill and washing that tooth simultaneously, this is ozonated water.
When we wash the tooth after a procedure with the syringe, this is ozonated water.
When using the ultrasonic handpiece to scale and remove calculus; when washing our instruments – again and always, ozonated water.
All tooth decay is the result of an infectious process caused by bacteria that leads to breakdown of tooth structure. These bacteria can permeate the tooth and destroy it from the inside. In addition to irrigation with ozonated water, we apply oxygen/ozone gas with a syringe to disinfect the remaining tooth structure.
Pathogenic microbes are always present at a diseased dental site, so before we restore a tooth, we disinfect it with ozone.
In periodontal treatment, we infuse the sulcus – the space between the gum and tooth – with a stream of oxygen/ozone gas for disinfection.
During root canal therapy, we lubricate our files with ozonated olive oil before using them to shape the canals. We then infuse the canals with a substantial amount of oxygen/ozone to disinfect the tooth.
At the end of a tooth extraction, we use ozone to disinfect the bone. In fact, ozone can actually be injected into the bone to help disinfect cavitations which may have resulted from long standing infections.
In sum, ozone therapy is an integral part of our practice that we believe helps set the stage for faster healing by removal of disease causing organisms from areas of infection.