Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the Mark-III free-electron laser as a means of etching enamel surfaces, with potential application to resin bonding. Methods: The FEL was tuned to wavelengths ranging from 3.0 to 9.2 μm. Specific wavelengths that are resonantly absorbed by phosphates, proteins, and water were used. First, bovine enamel was polished and exposed to static FEL exposures. Lased enamel was examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Additional bovine enamel specimens were exposed to FEL at similar wavelengths, but with rastering to create treated rectangular areas on each specimen. Surface roughness was evaluated using profilometry and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Composite was bonded to the lased enamel, and shear bond strengths were determined using an Instron universal testing machine. As a control, the surface roughness of, and shear bond strengths to, acid-etched enamel were determined. Results: Static FEL exposures caused changes in the enamel ranging from an etched appearance to pits, cracks, and frank cratering. The surface roughness of lased enamel was much greater than that of acid-etched enamel, and was qualitatively different as well. Shear bond strengths of resin to acid-etched enamel were significantly higher than bond strengths to lased enamel. Conclusions: Under the conditions used in this study, the FEL did not offer a practical and effective method of etching enamel for resin bonding. However, the ability of the FEL to deliver many specific wavelengths makes it an interesting tool for further research of laser effects on tooth structure.
- Free-electron laser