New LED tool developed by scientists that spots dental cavities before they even start

Scientists hope to create version that shows exact location of high acidity on teeth

<p>New dental tool prototype uses low-power light system to monitor reactions with a florescent dye solution to find where teeth enamel is most at risk from the acidity of plaque</p>

New dental tool prototype uses low-power light system to monitor reactions with a florescent dye solution to find where teeth enamel is most at risk from the acidity of plaque

Scientists have developed a new tool that uses LED light to detect and measure specific chemical changes that lead to dental cavities, an advance that may lead to better ways of preventing the condition before it even starts.

The prototype tool is called the O-pH system and it measures the acidity built up by the bacteria in plaque that leads to cavities, according to a description of the device last month in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

The device emits an LED light and measures its fluorescence with a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved chemical dye applied to the teeth.

Based on the light reaction, the optical device produces a numerical reading of the pH, or acidity, of the plaque covering those teeth.

This measurement can tell dentists and patients what area of a tooth is most at risk of developing a cavity, researchers said.

“Plaque has a lot of bacteria that produce acid when they interact with the sugar in our food,” Manuja Sharma, the study’s lead author and doctoral student at the University of Washington in the US, said in a statement.

“This acid is what causes the corrosion of the tooth surface and eventually cavities. So, if we can capture information about the acidic activity, we can get an idea of how bacteria are growing in the dental biofilm, or plaque,” Ms Sharma explained.

Since not all bacteria in plaque are bad or will lead to cavities, researchers said measuring the acidity of the environment can tell dentists what they need to know about the threat of developing problems.

They said such focus can limit the need to test for specific harmful bacteria, of which there will be large numbers on any given plaque.

For the study, scientists recruited 30 patients between the ages of 10 and 18, with a median age of 15, in the UW School of Dentistry’s Centre for Pediatric Dentistry.

Researchers said they chose children and teenagers for the study since the natural outer coating of enamel on their teeth is much thinner than that of adults, making it even more important for them to get an early warning of acid erosion.

They also recruited second- and third-year students in dentistry school, supervised by a faculty member.

“The study enrolled subjects with low (post-cleaning) and heavy (pre-cleaning) biofilm load, having both unhealthy/healthy surfaces,” scientists wrote in the study.

The idea of adding the acidity test as a new clinical procedure, scientists said, came from envisioning that when a patient first sits in the dental chair, before their teeth get cleaned, “a dentist would rinse them with the tasteless fluorescent dye solution and then get their teeth optically scanned to look for high acid production areas.”

In the test, researchers applied the dye to the teeth, and at the end of a length of cord they attached a probe that transmitted and collected light while hovering over the surface of a tooth.

This collected light then travels back to a central box that provides a pH reading that reveals the conditions on the patients’ teeth.

They repeated the test several times before and after sugar rinses and other condition changes such as pre- and post-professional dental cleaning.

Citing a limitation of the study, scientists said they were unable to consistently measure the same location on each tooth during each phase of testing.

They said they are currently making adjustments to the device to develop a version that produces images for dentists that instantly showed the exact location of high acidity, where the next cavity may occur.

“We do need more results to show how effective it is for diagnosis, but it can definitely help us understand some of your oral health quantitatively,” Ms Sharma said.

“It can also help educate patients about the effects of sugar on the chemistry of plaque. We can show them, live, what happens, and that is an experience they’ll remember and say, OK, fine, I need to cut down on sugar!” she added.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in