Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a new prototype device that uses infrared waves to gather data about the surface properties of teeth. Experimentally the device has been able to see deeper, and more accurately than x-rays without exposing the patient to any ionizing radiation. The device is an integration of the worlds of dentistry and mechanical engineering, where IR lasers are frequently used to characterize surfaces. Here’s a clip from MIT’s Technology Review about the technology:
Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Advanced Diffusion Wave Studies say that the technology can spot lesions as small as 50 microns in between teeth, one of the most difficult spaces to spot cavities, and up to 5 millimeters below the surface of a tooth. This is well outside the boundaries of x-ray detection without exposing the patient to radiation. The researchers built a clinical prototype of the device this month and plan to begin clinical tests next year.
Mandelis, an expert in the use of thermophotonics to detect defects in metals, semiconductors, and other crystal structures, realized seven years ago while visiting the dentist that subsurface defects in tooth enamel, such as demineralization, could be detected using the same approach. Loss of mineral content is a precursor to cavity development.
Mandelis’s dentist, Stephen Abrams, lamented that the dental profession treated decay, or “caries,” at the wrong end of the spectrum–when large, noticeable cavities had already formed. The two joined forces and began conducting research into diagnostic alternatives.
“The analogy we use is gangrene,” says Abrams, now chief executive of Quantum Dental Technologies, a startup founded by him and Mandelis to commercialize the laser device. “When do you want to treat gangrene: when you have to lob off a limb, or when you catch it early? Dentistry figures it’s been doing a great job, but what we’ve been doing is chopping off limbs all these years.”
Apparently the University of Toronto has been issuing press releases on this technology since 2003, so where’s our teeth lasers already?!
Read the full article here…