Whether it's real teeth or dental implants, dentists and patients always have to be concerned about plaque.

When patients lose their teeth, for any reason, the threat of plaque does not disappear along with them. Crowns or other dental implants can develop inflammation or plaque sticks that can be even more difficult to clean.

So, researchers are looking at a simple solution to help enhance those cleaning efforts: bubbles. More specifically, microbubbles.

That's right. It's not a tool, a laser or some sophisticated machinery that can assist in the cleaning efforts, just bursting bubbles. A team at Tohoku University in Japan has been researching ways to not only eliminate plaque buildup, but also help patients avoid other problems.

Their primary focus centers around a cavitating jet. This jet injects fluids at high speeds through water, and this system creates vapor bubbles. The key is when these bubbles burst or collapse, it triggers shockwaves that are powerful enough to eliminate impurities.

During their study, they grew biofilm in the mouths of four volunteers. They then wanted to compare the cleaning results of a cavitating jet and a water jet. These are both effective tools for keeping dental implants clean.

After examining the amount of plaque that remained following the cleaning attempts, they found that both methods achieved around the same amount of success. However, this was just after one minute of work. The cavitating jet actually removed about a third more plaque after three minutes. It was able to eliminate a larger amount of plaque from the root section of the screws and the crest area as well.

The research team leader, Hitoshi Soyama, says this process gives dentists a great way to enhance their cleaning efforts.

"Conventional methods cannot clean plaques on the surface of dental implants very well, so this new method could give dentists a new tool to better manage these fixtures which are becoming more common," he said.

While water flow can effectively eliminate biofilm, this cavitating jet complements the effort with its own energy through the bubble bursts. It can extract the particles from the implant and move them away from the area altogether. In other words, the two processes can be used together in a cleaning effort in order to maximize the results.

So, this new research is not as much about replacing some of the effective plaque-cleaning methods that are currently in use. Dentists can simply add some bubbles to their water and get better plaque-removal results.