Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental disease in the world. Left too long before treatment, the disease results in difficulty eating, infection and tooth loss. New research published by the international society for optics and photonics (SPIE), in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, describes a method enabling much earlier detection using inexpensive long-wavelength infrared imaging.
A cavity begins with a minute amount of mineral loss from the tooth enamel surface, resulting from the acidic environment of dental plaques. If cavities can be detected early enough, the progression can be stopped or even reversed.
Dentists currently rely on two methods to detect early cavities: x-ray imaging and visual inspection of the tooth surface, but both have limitations. Dentists can’t see a cavity until it is relatively advanced, and x-rays can’t detect early cavities on the biting surface of the tooth.
In the paper called ‘First step toward translation of thermophotonic lock-in imaging to dentistry as an early caries detection technology’, Ashkan Ojaghi, Artur Parkhimchyk, and Nima Tabatabaei of York University in Toronto describe a low-cost thermophotonic lock-in imaging (TPLI) tool that would allow dentists to detect developing cavities much earlier than x-rays or visual analysis.
The TPLI tool uses a long-wavelength infrared camera to detect the small amount of thermal infrared radiation emitted from dental cavities after stimulation by a light source.
Andreas Mandelis, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Toronto, said: “This paper will have a high impact on the way dentists diagnose incipient caries”.