Scientists image tooth decay in the 3rd dimension

September 06, 2004

A team of scientists from Glasgow today revealed a new technique that will allow dentists to detect and study the tell-tale signs of tooth decay before too much damage is done.

Speaking at one of the opening sessions at the Institute of Physics conference Photon 04 in Glasgow, Simon Poland outlined a new way of making a detailed 3D picture of a diseased area of a tooth, which could be done while a patient waits.

Simon Poland, from the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde, working with colleagues at the Glasgow Dental Hospital, and the University of Dundee, has used an existing imaging technique which creates optical sections (individual images or slices through a 3D object) using structured light (a beam of light in a grid pattern). They applied this technique to human teeth for the first time and succeeded in producing a 3D image a diseased area of a tooth.

The scientists took a tooth with an area of known decay and shone a beam of structured infra-red light (of around 880nm) using a halogen lamp. They took sets of 3 images at different spatial phases and combined them using standard image processing techniques. This produces an optically sectioned image - many image 'slices,' which are put together to form a whole 3D image.

Speaking at Photon 04, the UK's premier conference for photonics and optics, Simon Poland said: "We've successfully produced a 3D image of a region of tooth decay which will allow dentists to study the process of decay, caused by food and drink, in great detail and in real time, as the disease occurs, rather than after the fact."

He continued: "The technique is fast and simple and we could attach an endoscope to our kit to allow dentists to use the device in the surgery. They would shine the endoscope at the tooth they wanted to examine, and by using high-speed CCD camera, the image could be delivered very quickly, in around twenty minutes or so."

"Dentists usually detect disease by scraping and looking, or by taking X-rays but these methods only catch decay once it's already quite serious. Some of the more complex techniques currently available only give dentists data readings. The advantage of a detailed 3D image like the one we've created is that it can reveal decay in its earliest stages, and lets the dentist take measures to stop or repair the damage before it gets too bad. It gives them a powerful diagnostic tool, and tells them about the size and shape of the disease, and its progression."

Tooth decay is caused by acid produced when the sugar in plaque (bits of food and drink mixed with bacteria) breaks down. Fizzy drinks are particularly bad for teeth because they contain acid which begins to cause decay straight away. This leads to the break-down of the enamel (the protective surface coating) and mineral loss occurs. At this stage, re-mineralization is possible and is helped by good dental hygiene ¡V regular cleaning with toothpaste and fluorine mouthwash. The technique developed by Simon Poland and his colleagues could help dentists catch disease early in the process, before too much mineral loss occurs, when the possibility of re-mineralisation still exists. If mineral loss continues unchecked, cavities begin to form and grow, then fillings are needed.

The team now intend to use the technique to study teeth in different stages of tooth decay and to devise an easy to use kit for use in dental practices.
-end-
Notes to editors:

For further information or interviews please contact the Photon 04 Press Centre: David Reid, press officer, Institute of Physics, Tel: 07946 321473, E-mail: david.reid@iop.org.

Photon04 is the largest optics event in the UK and the second in the series that began in Cardiff with Photon02 in September 2002. Photon04 is being held on 6¡V9 September 2004 at Glasgow Caledonian University. It comprises Optics and Photonics 2004: the biennial conference of the Optics and Photonics Division of the Institute of Physics and QEP-16: the latest in the series of conferences initiated in 1973 by the Quantum Electronics and Photonics Group of the Institute of Physics.

More information can be found at: http://www.photon04.org.

More information about Simon Poland's work and the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde can be found here http://www.photonics.ac.uk/

For more information about dental health, references, statistics, or quotations, contact the press office at the British Dental Health Foundation: http://www.dentalhealth.org.uk/

The Institute of Physics is a leading international professional body and learned society with over 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied. It has a world-wide membership and is a major international player in:
  • scientific publishing and electronic dissemination of physics;
  • setting professional standards for physicists and awarding professional qualifications;
  • promoting physics through scientific conferences, education and science policy advice.

    The Institute is a member of the Science Council, and a nominated body of the Engineering Council. The Institute works in collaboration with national physical societies and plays an important role in transnational societies such as the European Physical Society and represents British and Irish physicists in international organisations. In Great Britain and Ireland the Institute is active in providing support for physicists in all professions and careers, encouraging physics research and its applications, providing support for physics in schools, colleges and universities, influencing government and informing public debate.

    IOP Publishing

    Related Tooth Decay Articles from Brightsurf:

    Stopping tooth decay before it starts -- without killing bacteria
    Eating sugar or other carbohydrates after dental cleanings causes oral bacteria to quickly rebuild plaque and to produce acids that corrode tooth enamel, leading to cavities.

    Studies shed new light on how biodiversity influences plant decay
    Scientists have provided new insights on the relationship between plant diversity in forests and the diversity of organisms involved in their decay, such as bacteria and fungi.

    Smile: Atomic imaging finds root of tooth decay
    A collaboration between researchers from Cornell University, Northwestern University and University of Virginia combined complementary imaging techniques to explore the atomic structure of human enamel, exposing tiny chemical flaws in the fundamental building blocks of our teeth.

    Materials scientists drill down to vulnerabilities involved in human tooth decay
    Northwestern University researchers have cracked one of the secrets of tooth decay.

    X-ray observations of Milky Way's halo rule out models of dark matter decay
    An unidentified X-ray signature recently observed in nearby galaxies and galaxy clusters is not due to decay of dark matter, researchers report.

    FSU researchers propose new physics to explain decay of subatomic particle
    FSU researchers published new research that suggests reported decays of a Kaon by the Koto experiment may actually be new particles.

    Chemical found in drinking water linked to tooth decay in children
    Children with higher concentrations of a certain chemical in their blood are more likely to get cavities, according to a new study by West Virginia University School of Dentistry researchers.

    Preventing, healing tooth decay with a bioactive peptide
    Cavities, or dental caries, are the most widespread non-communicable disease globally, according to the World Health Organization.

    Green in tooth and claw
    Hard plant foods may have made up a larger part of early human ancestors' diet than currently presumed, according to a new experimental study of modern tooth enamel from Washington University in St.

    Experts call for more active prevention of tooth decay for children's teeth
    Three-year trial comparing three treatment strategies for tooth decay in children's teeth finds no evidence to suggest that conventional fillings are more successful than sealing decay into teeth, or using preventive methods alone.

    Read More: Tooth Decay News and Tooth Decay Current Events
  • Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.