Dental imaging method uses squid ink to search for gum disease

squid ink to search for gum disease

Gum Disease

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, develop a new dental imaging method, called a periodontal probe, to examine the patient’s gums. The method is non-invasive, more comprehensive and more accurate.

The instrument inserts in between the teeth and gums for checking how much the gums have shrunk back from the teeth, creating pockets.

However, periodontal probe is uncomfortable and painful for the patient. Measurements can also vary greatly between dentists, and the probe measuring the pocket depth of one spot at a time.

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This innovative method can image the entire pocket depth around the teeth consistently and accurately, without requiring any painful poking and prodding.

periodontal probe

“Using the periodontal probe is like examining a dark room with just a flashlight and you can only see one area at a time. With our method, it’s like flipping on all the light switches so you can see the entire room all at once,” Jokerst said.

The method begins by rinsing the mouth with a paste made of food-grade squid ink mixed with water and cornstarch. The squid-ink-based rinse serves as a contrast agent for an imaging technique called Photo-acoustic ultrasound.

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Squid ink naturally contains melanin nanoparticles, which absorb light. During the oral rinse, the melanin nanoparticles get trapped in the pockets between the teeth and gums. When researchers shine a laser light onto the area, the squid ink heats up and quickly swells, creating pressure differences in the gum pockets that can detect by using ultrasound. This method enables to create a full map of the pocket depth around each tooth,to improve over the conventional method.

Researchers tested Photoacoustic imaging method in a pig model containing a mix of shallow and deep pockets in the gums. While their results closely matched measurements taken using a periodontal probe, they also consistent across multiple tests. On the other hand, measurements with the periodontal probe varied significantly from one test to another.

Researchers say, in future may testing their method on humans. At last, researchers plan to create a mouthpiece that uses this technology to measure periodontal health.

More information: [Dental research]