A dental bleach storage, mixing and delivery device and related method are disclosed. The device includes a barrel with at least two chambers. The chambers store components that when mixed can form a dental bleach or whitener. A plunger is provided that can be reciprocated within the barrel to force such components from their chambers. A mixing tip is provided for the end of the barrel. The components may be forced through the mixing tip which thoroughly mixes them together. The resulting bleach or whitener is applied to a patient’s teeth where oxygen ions released from the bleach or whitener and will whiten the patient’s teeth.
Historically the bleaching of teeth has typically been accomplished with peroxides, either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The peroxide may be applied to the patient’s teeth in a dental office, and heat may then be applied to the peroxide to cause release of oxygen radicals which carry out the bleaching process. Heat was often applied to the peroxide using heat guns or teeth whitening machine. As it was also well known that light decomposes peroxides, high intensity light from conventional dental light sources, such as those used to cure dental composites, were also utilized to directly activate peroxides. As lasers have replaced conventional light sources in dental offices, lasers have been used to activate peroxide both directly and indirectly. It is also well known that peroxides can be decomposed by use of basic compounds such as calcium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.
Chemically, peroxides give up a free radical oxygen atom when activated by an appropriate light source or chemical compound. Once released in the vicinity of teeth, the free radical oxygen atom attacks the carbon–carbon bonding structure of the organic molecule producing the stain. The offending molecule is oxidized and the oxygen is reduced. The liberation of free radical oxygen can be performed by increasing the energy level of the peroxide molecule by adding energy to it or by chemically pushing the peroxide solution and ultrasonic scaler to a basic pH number.
If supplies intended to be used to bleach teeth are stored with peroxide in it, the peroxide will decompose and its effectiveness will be lost. Therefore it is preferable to mix the peroxide with the other materials of the dental bleach immediately prior to bleaching. Historically this has been accomplished by supplying a dentist with a variety of containers having the constituents of the dental bleach, requiring the dentist to measure a specified amount of each constituent and mix them at chairside before bleaching a patient’s teeth. That was undesirable due to the time required and the potential for human error. A need for an improved system was evident.
Dental imaging supplies have been used for a number of years to assist the dentistry professional in recording images of a patient’s mouth. Conventional systems include the analog video camera and video cassette recorder (VCR) combination and, more recently, digital still image capture systems. Both systems use a miniature camera known as an intraoral camera that is inserted into the patient’s mouth to capture images of teeth and gums. At the same time, the images are being displayed which allows the dentist as well as perhaps the patient to view the treatment areas in a more comfortable manner.
With the analog VCR system, the dentist can create a movie of the patient’s mouth. Although the movie is a useful feature both from a diagnosis standpoint and from a patient understanding point of view, dentists often only need to store a still image of the treatment areas for their patient records. The VCR system, however, is not an effective means for providing still images, primarily because of the well-known “shakes” that often appear on the display when the movie is paused. Moreover, a VCR-based system does not provide for easy indexing, access, and manipulation of the still images.
The digital still image capture system has solved some of the problems in the older VCR-based systems by providing digital still images that can be easily stored and manipulated using a personal computer (PC) and dental instruments. However, shakes or flutter in the still image are still a problem, particularly because the smallest movement between the intraoral camera (which has a high magnification) and the patient’s mouth can cause the scene to change dramatically while a single still image is being captured. The dentist may need to hold the camera very still for several retakes until an acceptable quality still image is captured. This is an undesirable burden. Moreover, although the system can create still images, the creation of movies will require a separate VCR-based system. This dual requirement is a financial and practical burden which has not helped promote dental imaging systems in the past.
The use of digital still images has also allowed image manipulation techniques like teeth whitening machine to be used in illustrating the visual effects of cosmetic treatments on a patient’s mouth and teeth prior to the treatments actually being performed on the patient. With conventional techniques, the outline of the teeth are manually marked off on the image. However, because of the need to carefully delineate the teeth boundary (so as to obtain a more realistic representation of the treatment to be performed), the manual technique is often too time consuming, thus precluding its performance while the patient waits in the operatory. Therefore, there is also a need for a faster tooth detection technique.