While sitting at the dentist’s office, have you ever considered the amount of water mixed with saliva that gets sprayed into the air due to the fast motion of the dental tools? Spit contains bacteria that can be spread and if it also includes a virus, that would be a health hazard to other patients and clinic personnel.

Scientists at the University of Illinois had the same thoughts. The blasts of water sprayed on teeth and gums, that is then encountered with the vibration and force of a dental tool, forms a mist that’s propelled into the air. The scientists ran some tests and quickly found that a small admixture of a food-grade polymer to the water completely eliminated the aerosol effect created in the dental setting. The viscoelastic properties of polymers worked perfectly to contain the mist, even with the significant forces applied by the tools.

As presented in a paper published in Physics of Fluids, the results show that the polymers exhibit the polymer characteristics that are needed for this purpose. The researchers tested two FDA-approved polymers, polyacrylic acid and xanthan gum. The most effective additive was the polyacrylic acid; its high elongational viscosity and relatively low shear viscosity, makes it effective and easy to add.

By using the polymer admixture, the water blasts created are suppressed and aerosolization is eliminated. When the dental tool hits the water inside the mouth, the added polymer causes the water droplets to stretch like a rubber band and pull back due to the elastic forces of the polymer. The usual projection of plain water is altered.

In conclusion, using a polymer admixture in the irrigation water at the dentist’s office reduces health risks associated with airborne viruses and bacteria. With the focus of the world on the Coronavirus, everyone is extremely conscious of the spread of germs, and the effort to reduce them.

This article describes one of thousands of unique uses of polymers. The Polymers Technology Center is available to help companies with the development and production of polymers, including the incorporation of additives. We are located at 8900 Research Drive, Charlotte, NC 28262. To contact us, call (704) 602-4106 or Email us. We look forward to hearing from you.