CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/645,674, filed Aug. 20, 2003, which is incorporated herein by reference for all that it discloses.
This invention relates to devices capable of providing hygienic treatments through light.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Hygiene relates to the principles of cleanliness, promotion and preservation of health or the freeing from disease-causing microorganisms. Hygienic effects can be established in different ways of which one is through the effect of light on biological structures. The light treatment can be applied to superficial structures and subcutaneous structures. The effects of light on biological structures depends on the properties of the light source (e.g. active matter, beam wavelength, continuous or impulse mode of operation), characteristics of the structures, water content, pigmentation degree, vascularization, vitality, heterogeneity, specific heat conductivity or time exposure. One of the objectives in the design of hygienic devices is to effectively apply multiple hygienic effects preferably simultaneously. Such devices would then lead to a reduction in treatment time while optimizing a comprehensive application of hygienic effects. The present invention advances the art in that direction.
The present invention provides a device for application of two or more hygienic effects. The device could have one element on a support or multiple elements distributed on a support. In case of multiple elements, a pattern of elements could be created into a topographical surface of elements. Two or more light sources are used for each element whereby each the light sources are capable of producing a unique light treatment. Examples of light sources are low power lasers, light emitting diodes or semiconductor lasers. The spectrum of usable light ranges from the ultraviolet, visible or infrared spectrum.
At least part of each element is transparent to the light treatments, e.g. the top part of the element. A support structure is included to which a connector part of the element can be fixed or removably connected. The light sources could be within the element (i.e., inside or integrated in the element) or could be inside the support and then optically connected to the element.
Different shapes and sizes of elements could be used, such as, elements that are slender, elongated, tapered, thin, having bead-shaped heads, having texture, partly or fully transparent, having optical guides, as well as elements that are bendable, flexible or formable. The elements, and in particular the top parts, are made from a soft plastic, a silicone, transparent latex, PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), polyurethane, or the like.
In one aspect, the device includes means for providing vibration or massaging effects. Vibrating or massaging means could be included in the support or in the element(s) with the objective to vibrate the support and/or the element(s).
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
Examples of devices having one element are e.g. a pick or a toothpick. Examples of devices having multiple elements are e.g. a brush, comb, toothbrush, or the like. Other examples of devices are e.g. a glove or a facemask, whereby the multiple elements are connected to the surface. The surface of the glove or facemask is preferably a made of flexible material.
The objectives and advantages of the present invention will be understood by reading the following detailed description in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 shows examples of the application of multiple hygienic effects according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 shows an example of a brush according to the present invention;
FIG. 3 shows an example of a comb according to the present invention;
FIG. 4 shows an example of a toothbrush according to the present invention;
FIGS. 5-6 show examples of different elements according to the present invention;
FIG. 7 shows an example of patterns of multiple elements according to the present invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 8 shows examples of a vibrating or massaging means as part of the device according to the present invention.
Although the following detailed description contains many specifics for the purposes of illustration, anyone of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that many variations and alterations to the following exemplary details are within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the following preferred embodiment of the invention is set forth without any loss of generality to, and without imposing limitations upon, the claimed invention.
The present invention provides a device capable of applying two or more light treatments to body structures. These light treatments are established by two or more light sources each capable of delivering a light beam with a unique light treatment to the body structures. The application of the light treatments could be established either in a quasi-stationary manner or a dynamic manner. The light sources are preferably low power light sources including low power lasers, light emitting diodes or low power semiconductor lasers ranging from the ultraviolet, visible or infrared spectrum. The desired light treatment(s) that one would like to obtain guides the choice of the light source (light sources) and the parameter(s). By varying parameters such as e.g. fluence, spot size, mode such as continuous or pulsed, repetition rate, pulse duration different light treatments could be established.
In general, light treatments are defined as treatments with hygienic effects that relate to the cleanliness of these structures, promotion and preservation of health of the structures, freeing the body structure from disease-causing microorganisms or providing therapeutic or treatment effects. In particular, the present invention encompasses hygienic effects related to the hygienic effect of visible, near ultraviolet and infrared light on these structures, which are known in the art (for a light spectrum refer to page 13 in a book by Tuner et al. (1996) entitled “Laser therapy in dentistry and medicine” and published by Prisma Books, Grangesberg, Sweden). Examples of such hygienic effects that could be selected include anti-inflammatory effects, preventative effects, caries-protective effects, heating effects anti-bacterial effects, sterilizing effects, cleaning effects, cosmetic effects, therapeutic effects, healing effects, bio-stimulative effects, bio-altering effects, pain-releaving effects, teeth whitening effects, photo-rejuvination effects, photodynamic effects or agent-penetration effects.
To establish a particular hygienic effect at a body structure one needs to consider the light source properties such as the type of low power light source, wavelength of the light beam, the continuous or impulse mode of operation of the light sources, characteristics of the structures, water content of the structures, pigmentation degree of the structures, vascularization of the structures, vitality of the structures, heterogeneity of the structures, specific heat conductivity of the structures, the fluence of light penetration through a structure or the time exposure needed for the light beam. The art provides teachings on hygienic photo-effects of structures including guidelines regarding parameters such as the type of light source, selection of wavelength(s), fluence, penetration, selection of spot size, recommended pulse duration, recommended repetition rate, or the like. The selection of the hygienic effect as part of the present invention incorporates these teachings as well as new teachings that become available in the art describing newly identified hygienic effects.
Currently available teachings are described in the following books, which provide an exemplary list rather than a comprehensive list. The list includes a book by Goldman (1981) entitled “The biomedical laser: technology and clinical applications” and published by Springer-Verlag, New York; a book by Katzir (1993) entitled “Lasers and optical fibers in medicine” and published by Academic Press, New York; a book by Hajder et al. (1994) entitled “Acupuncture and lasers” and published by Ming, Belgrade; a book by Tuner et al. (1996) entitled “Laser therapy in dentistry and medicine” and published by Prisma Books, Grangesberg, Sweden; a book by Alster et al. (1996) entitled “Cosmetic laser surgery” and published by Wiley & Sons, New York; or a book by Fitzpatrick et al. (2000) entitled “Cosmetic Laser Surgery” and published by Mosby, St. Louis).
FIG. 1 shows a first exemplary embodiment of an element 110 with two light sources 120, 130 delivering a light beam with a green wavelength 122 and a light beam with a blue wavelength 132, respectively. The green wavelength 122 and the blue wavelength 132 each provide a unique hygienic effect when applied to body structure 140. In this example, light beams 122, 132 have both a fairly superficial hygienic effect, yet unique and different from each other, at body structure 140 as shown by 124, 134 respectively. In general, two or more light sources could be used such as n light sources 150-1 to 150-n. Two of the same light sources could be used such as two light sources 160-1, 160-2 that each deliver blue light, however, with at least one different parameter to establish a different and unique hygienic effect for each of the two light sources 160-1, 160-2. Such a different and unique hygienic effect could be established by different fluences for each of the two light sources 160-1, 160-2, i.e. fluence 1 and fluence 2, respectively. The relative subsurface fluence of a light beam in a structure is dependent on the spot size, which could be relatively small or relatively large. The same subsurface fluence values appear at deeper levels with the larger spot size compared to the smaller spot size. Another example is that there are three light sources, of which two are the same 170-1, 170-2 and one 170-3 is different, though all three delivering a unique hygienic effect.
FIG. 1 shows an exemplary embodiment of different hygienic effects in a structure in which the light beams are applied in a quasi-stationary manner. However, as a person of average skill in the art to which this invention pertains readily appreciates, blending of hygienic effects could be achieved when the light beams are moved with respect to the body structure. In such a dynamic manner of applying the hygienic effects, a particular body structure receives blending of two or more hygienic effects, i.e., where the penetration of the treatment overlaps.
Exemplary devices according to the present invention are shown in FIGS. 2-4. It is noted that these are examples and that the invention is not limited to these devices. The key idea of each of the devices is that they each have a support 210 with multiple elements 220 distributed thereon. Each element could include two or more light sources (e.g. inside or integrated with the element) or could be optically connected with the two or more light sources in case they are e.g. situated in support 210 or handle 230. The multiple elements could have elements each with the same type of two or more light sources, or there could be a mixture or a pattern of different elements with each element having their own combination of light sources.
FIG. 2 shows a brush 200 with a support 210 for multiple elements 220. The support is extended from handle 230. Handle 230 could have controls 240A, 240B for power as well as programming the device. A display 250 could be used for displaying the status of the device as well as providing feedback of the hygiene treatment program. FIG. 3 shows a comb 300 with a row of multiple elements 310 on support 320. FIG. 4 shows a toothbrush 400 with multiple (thin) elements 410 on support 420.
FIG. 5 shows examples of elements 510, 520, 530. Each element 510, 520, 530 has a top part 512, 522, 532, respectively, which defines the shape or size of the element. Light sources, 120, 130 (in this example of FIG. 5 there are two light sources), are situated near the bottom and inside top part 512, 522, 532. Base 540 supports top part 512, 522, 532, and is further integrated with a connector part 550. Connector part 550 fits the support like a male/female connector. The art teaches many different mechanisms for connector part 550 all which are useful to this invention.
Element 510 has a slender, elongated and tapered top part 512 transparent to light beams 122, 132 (indicated by the straight arrows). The elements 410 in toothbrush 400 shown in FIG. 4 are thin filaments and could be interpreted from element 510 with the exception that the top part is no longer tapered. Element 520 has slender, elongated and tapered top part 522 transparent to light beams 122, 132 (indicated by the straight arrows). A bead-shaped head 522 is integrated with top part 522. The light beams 122, 132 will now also pass through bead-shaped head 522. Element 530 has a short (tapered or rounded) top part 532 transparent to light beams 122, 132 (indicated by the straight arrows). Accordingly, different top parts could be used and developed with different sizes and with different texture (not shown), all which are primarily dependent on the type of application and/or user preference.
The top parts of the elements could be between 0.1-10 mm in diameter and between 5 and 100 mm in length. In one aspect at least part of the element is made out of transparent material. Transparent materials suitable for the top parts of the elements are materials capable of radiating two or more light beams through its surface without loosing the desired treatment effect or power of the light beams. Examples of such a transparent material are for instance, but not limited to, a silicone, a (soft) plastic, a transparent latex, PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), polyurethane, or the like. Depending on the type of material used, the top part of the element could be flexible, bendable or formable. A toothbrush could have top parts based on thin flexible filaments; each toothbrush could have filaments with a different stiffness similar to conventional toothbrushes.
FIG. 5 shows examples of elements with transparent top parts. Now this does not have to be case for all elements, since it would also be possible that it is desired to have the light treatments radiate from particular parts of the top part. FIG. 6 shows element 610 whereby the top part 612 has a reflective coating or a cladding 620 to prevent light beams from going through the surface of the top part. Examples of such coatings or claddings are know in the art and the selection depends on the type of light beams as a person of average skill in the art would readily appreciate.
In general, the top part of an element could include one or more optical guides providing guidance of the light beams. As a person of average skill in the art to which this invention pertains would readily appreciate, this could be accomplished in different ways. For instance, one could include optical guide(s) or path(s), optical fiber(s), lens(es), mirror(s), prism(s), reflective coating(s), reflective groove(s), beam splitter(s), collimator(s), light channel(s), cladding(s) and grating(s). In the example of FIG. 6, element 630 includes a top part 632 with optical guides 640 to promote the propagation of light beams in such a way that they are able to pass through top part 632 in various directions. An optical guide could also be a hollow guide (air filled) or a guide filled with a material (e.g. water, a gel or a silicone) that optically guides the light beam(s) and propagates the light beam(s) through the element.
FIG. 7 shows an alternate embodiment of the invention, which relates to a flexible support 710 onto which elements could be attached and replaced by other elements in case a different treatment is desired. In other words, the key idea here is that dependent on the type of treatments and/or preferred types of elements a user could create a pattern of elements with: (i) elements providing different hygienic effects, and/or (ii) elements having different shapes or sizes. Side view 720 and top view 730 show the three different type of elements 510, 520, 530 as discussed with reference to FIG. 5. The pattern shown in views 720, 730 shows a topographical surface of the multiple elements. By having removable or detachable elements, the user is capable of changing the pattern and creating a new topographical surface as desired for his/her hygienic treatment plan. The flexible support could take the shape of a glove, a facemask, or other suitable devices used for hygiene or treatment application. In case of a glove the elements are (preferably) removably attached to the outside of the glove so that a user could e.g. rub his/her face and apply the hygienic treatments. In case of a facemask the elements are (preferably) removably attached to the inside of the facemask so that a user wear the facemask and apply the hygienic treatments. Examples of flexible supports are, for instance, but not limited to, latex, silicone, rubber, PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), polyurethane, or the like.
FIG. 8 shows two embodiments in which a vibrating means or a massaging means is included in the device with the objective to provide vibration to at least the top part of element 810 or, additionally, in some cases, to the support 820. In one aspect, vibrating or massaging means 830 could be included in support 820 and in operable contact with element 810. In another aspect, vibrating or massaging means 840 could be included in element 810, which is connected to support 850. Examples of vibrating or massaging means that could be used are an ultrasonic means, a piezoelectric means or a mechanical means, all which are known in the art.
The present invention has now been described in accordance with several exemplary embodiments, which are intended to be illustrative in all aspects, rather than restrictive. Thus, the present invention is capable of many variations in detailed implementation, which may be derived from the description contained herein by a person of ordinary skill in the art. All such variations are considered to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention as defined by the following claims and their legal equivalents.