New Hi-Tech Approach to Diagnosing Gum Disease

In the past, you’ve certainly had your gums examined to determine the presence of gum disease. You might recall a thin metal periodontal probe used to calculate “pocket depth,” which is the detached area between your teeth and gums. The depth of detachment within each pocket can vary depending upon where the probe is placed and can lead to an inaccurate diagnosis. A team of engineers from the University of California San Diego developed a process that can provide a more detailed and accurate diagnosis—using squid ink and photoacoustic ultrasound.

Squid Ink, Nanoparticles,
and Photoacoustic Ultrasound
A rinse made of food-grade squid ink, water, and cornstarch is first swished in the mouth. Melanin nanoparticles in the squid ink, which are trapped in the tooth pockets, absorb light. This allows a laser light shined on the gums to heat the squid ink and cause pressure differences in the pockets. This pressure difference is detected by ultrasound and converted to an image for diagnosis.

Consistent, Reliable Measurements
Researchers have been able to consistently obtain the same accurate measurements in repeated tests. And, the method is non-invasive which means no pain and reduced risks to the patient.

Future Plans
Although an external laser light is used now, researchers are working to create dental trays that will emit the light directly onto each tooth and transmit the results to a computer application in a matter of moments. While they are at it, they want to replace the expensive laser lights with an inexpensive, portable light system like LEDs, which will make the diagnostic tool more economical and universally available. Finally, the current salty taste of the mouth rinse is on the chopping block as researchers plan to improve the taste by adding mint and other flavorings.

What This Means to Patients
This tool will provide the information dentists need in much less time and with an excellent degree of accuracy. Patients will appreciate the fact that the process is non-invasive and have confidence that the ultimate diagnosis will lead to improved care for their gums.


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