How safe is ozone used in dentistry?

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How safe is ozone used in dentistry?
« on: 11/07/2009 08:30:01 »
Andrea asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Chris,

I am a 702 listener and heard you talking about ozone and how toxic it is.

My 3 year old had a fissure in his tooth and they used ozone to kill the bacteria before sealing it. I have since found out that this procedure is not FDA approved but it is being used by many dentists. What are the consequences of this treatment for my son?


What do you think?


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How safe is ozone used in dentistry?
« Reply #1 on: 11/10/2009 12:53:21 »
Chemistry and toxicity are not really my areas of expertise, but I wouldn't worry about the ozone treatment.

Ozone is unstable (it decomposes to oxygen and/or reacts with other things and ceases to exist) so it won't accumulate in the body or anything like that. For a single dose, I would suggest that effects (if any) would be immediate (minutes/hours), rather than time delayed. It's a sort-of sterilising/bleaching agent.

I don't know how they apply the ozone for dental purposes, but I would guess it's applied extremely locally - high local concentration in a few cubic millimetres in the tooth, but rather more dilute if the same amount formed part of a breath. They may well use a surrounding airflow to tend to prevent the patient breathing it anyway.

The amount of ozone breathed in in a single dental treatment is probably pretty small compared to the lifetime exposure to atmospheric ozone pollution if you live in a city...

I stress I'm not an expert, and the above is mostly educated-guesswork/intuition.
"It has been said that the primary function of schools is to impart enough facts to make children stop asking questions. Some, with whom the schools do not succeed, become scientists." - Schmidt-Nielsen "Memoirs of a curious scientist"