Dental curing lights are a mainstay of dentistry today. Procedures such as cavity restorations, porcelain veneers and orthodontic bonding all rely on polymerization of monomers, which is commonly achieved with light activation. Acids, solvents, and different monomers all present the possibility of physical and biological side effects for patients and dental personnel. In particular, dental curing lights, which emit blue light, can be harmful to the operators’ eyesight
Potential Tissue Effects
Cumulative use of curing light in operative dentistry may amount to several hours each day. How much light is absorbed by the target organ vs. that absorbed by neighboring structures depends on the angle of the beam, the distance to the light source and the lamp spectrum. Some light may also be reflected and scattered. We can assume that 10 to 30 percent of the curing light is reflected toward the operator. Research conducted on different curing lamps does not show that exposure from dental curing lights during normal use would reach threshold limit values for blue light on skin. However, if a clinician has a photosensitivity disease or is taking a photosensitizing drug, then these limits do not apply.
Potential Eyesight Effects
The most important aspect of biological injury from dental curing lights involves eyesight. This can result from direct, accidental or the cumulative effects of scattered blue light following the unprotected use of a curing light. Blue light injury to the retina of the eye is similar to that following direct exposure to ecliptic sunlight, called solar retinitis. Harm may become evident several days after exposure and may continue for many weeks. In severe cases, there may be permanent retinal injury, which is seen as a blind spot in the middle of the visual field. In any case, blue light exposure without protection tends to speed the aging and degenerative processes in the eye.
Important Dental Curing Light Operating Instructions
To avoid eye injury, dental clinicians should heed the following precautions whenever using a curing light:
- Never direct irradiation toward the eyes, but instead should be restricted to the area of the patient’s oral cavity.
- Cover areas of soft tissue that are at risk of excessive exposure in order to avoid irritation.
- Do not use a curing on a patient with a history of photobiological reactions or are currently taking a photosensitizing drug.
- Patients who have had cataract surgery should wear protective goggles if a curing light must be used.
- Clinicians with a history of retinal disease should ask an ophthalmologist before operating a curing light.
Dental curing lights should be turned off at all times when not in use.
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