Dental office lighting is meant to enable the dental practitioner to deliver high quality dental care and enhance productivity. This means the light provided should be of sufficient quantity, quality and consistency. Dental procedures vary greatly from polishing to tooth extraction and each of these procedures comes with a different lighting requirement. Even a simple teeth polishing method needs proper lighting so that each and every corner of the mouth is clearly visible.
LEDs, and their multifold benefits, have revolutionized the lightening concept in dental equipment. The manufacturers of dental equipment have learned the benefits of using LED lights over the other lights and are constantly working to accommodate them in the new models of dental operatory lights.
LED technology has displaced traditional lighting technologies significantly over the last two decades. In fact, the improving quality and performance of LEDs have made them suitable for adaptation into light applications for dental work. The advantages of LED technology include the fact that LED lights produce more light with less power consumption and last longer than incandescent bulbs. In addition, they do not produce radiant heat, thus preventing the dental team from perspiring while working in gloves, glasses, masks or gowns for a more comfortable and productive work environment.
There are now several dental equipment manufacturers developing and marketing LED dental lights. Although halogen bulb-based lights are still the most popular form of dental lighting, LED lights are expected to displace if not replace them within the next decade. However, it is important for professionals in the dental field to understand how LED technology meets basic dental lighting requirements.
Components of Dental Lighting
The quantity, quality and consistency of light can be subjective terms, but lighting performance can be described objectively.
Light quantity in oral cavity illumination may be measured as the amount of light incident on a given area. It is described in terms of luminance and is typically measured in lux. The levels of illumination for most dental applications range from less than 8,000 lux to 30,000 lux depending on the particular procedure.
Ideally, oral cavity lighting should be a neutral white color, which is why dental light manufacturers design products that mimic natural sunlight as closely as possible. Natural sunlight provides a broad, balanced color spectrum that the human eye regards as the ideal illuminant for perceiving an object’s true color.
The light pattern from dental lights should have a clear and uniform central region that illuminates the targeted region consistently. The light pattern produced should also control the amount of glare in the patient’s eyes. The light head should exhibit excellent shadow performance – partially obstructing the light field should not cast excessive shadows or reduce lighting to the extent that the dental practitioner would have to slow down, reposition the light or assume a poor posture.
It is also worth noting that modern dentistry now includes the use of photo-initiated dental materials. Light-curable composite resins have especially become popular due to their natural cosmetic appearance, improved ease of application and improved durability. This creates the need for dental lights that are highly compatible with these applications. LED-based technology addresses this issue since it is possible to reduce or completely eliminate blue light that could initiate curing. This allows the dentist to work with full illumination in the oral cavity during the entire restoration process.
Other Dental Lighting Requirements
Although the performance of the light in the oral cavity is of utmost importance, certain requirements must also be met by dental lights. They include:
Dental practitioners often sacrifice good posture to achieve better vision in the oral cavity. This could easily result in chronic pain, reduced productivity and a shorter career. The design of the dental task light should foster both good vision and proper posture to the highest possible extent.
Dental lights should deliver proper illumination to meet the needs of a particular user and the particular application. The ability to adjust illumination to deliver only the amount of light that is necessary for each particular procedure based on the user’s need is therefore important.
Dental lights should be easy to move to accommodate illumination of both the upper and lower arches for every possible procedure. In addition, although a dental light with two axes of rotation is acceptable, one with three axes provides greater ergonomic advantage and avoids shadowing.
The transition to LED dental lighting has numerous advantages, but it is also important to understand its negative consequences. Although LEDs do not produce radiant heat, some heat is produced at the LED junction that could cause the diode junction to fail especially when multiple LEDs are clustered. In addition, LED-based dental lights require a higher degree of technology and sophistication that would mean a high initial price and although they last longer, the cost and effort of repair in case of failure is substantially more than that for a bulb replacement.
The advantages of these lights are many and can be listed as high light emission, low power consumption, small size, and broader light spectrum. The dental industry is one such industry where the LEDs have found their place in the dental operatory lights.