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Quintessence Publishing: Journals: QI
Quintessence International

Edited by Eli Eliav

ISSN 0033-6572 (print) • ISSN 1936-7163 (online)

February 2001
Volume 32 , Issue 2

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Effect of sonic and mechanical toothbrushes on subgingival microbial flora: A comparative in vivo scanning electron microscopy study of 8 subjects

Karen B. Williams, MS, RDH/Charles M. Cobb, DDS, PhD/Heidi J. Taylor, MS, RDH/Alan R. Brown, DDS/Kimberly Krust Bray, MS, RDH

Pages: 147-154
PMID: 12066676

Objectives: The purpose of this initial study was to evaluate the effects of both a sonic and a mechanical toothbrush versus the effects of no treatment on depth of subgingival penetration of epithelial and tooth-associated bacteria. Method and materials: Eight adult subjects exhibiting advanced chronic periodontitis with at least 3 single-rooted teeth that were in separate sextants with facial pockets >= 4 mm and <= 8 mm and that required extraction constituted the experimental sample. Teeth were either subjected to 15 seconds of brushing with a mechanical toothbrush or a sonic toothbrush or left untreated. The test tooth and the associated soft tissue wall of the periodontal pocket were removed as a single unit. Samples were processed and coded for blind examination by scanning electron microscopy. Distributional and morphologic characteristics of dominant bacteria with specific emphasis on spirochetes were evaluated for both epithelial- and tooth-associated plaque. Results: No differences were found in morphotypes or distributional and aggregational characteristics of epithelial-associated microbes in the 1- to 3-mm subgingival zone between the mechanical and sonic toothbrush-treated groups and the control group. Both toothbrush groups featured disruption of microbes that extended up to 1 mm subgingivally. Root surfaces on the sonic-treated samples appeared plaque-free at low magnification; however, at 4,700x, a thin layer of mixed morphotypes and intact spirochetes was found supragingivally and slightly subgingivally. In comparison, mechanical brush samples featured incompletely removed plaque, both supragingivally and subgingivally, with intact spirochetes present on subgingival root surfaces. Conclusion: Results suggest similar effects for both sonic and mechanical toothbrushes on epithelial- and tooth-associated bacterial plaque in periodontal pockets and adjacent root surfaces that extend up to 1 mm subgingivally. Further, the presence of intact subgingival spirochetes suggests limited exposure to acoustical or mechanical energy from the toothbrushes evaluated.

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