Nav: Home

New dental imaging method uses squid ink to fish for gum disease

September 07, 2017

Squid ink might be a great ingredient to make black pasta, but it could also one day make getting checked for gum disease at the dentist less tedious and even painless. By combining squid ink with light and ultrasound, a team led by engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed a new dental imaging method to examine a patient's gums that is non-invasive, more comprehensive and more accurate than the state of the art.

"The last time I was at the dentist, I realized that the tools that are currently being used to image teeth and gums could use significant updating," said Jesse Jokerst, a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego and senior author of the study.

The conventional method for dentists to assess gum health is to use an instrument called a periodontal probe -- a thin, hook-like metal tool that's marked like a tiny measuring stick and inserted in between the teeth and gums to see whether and how much the gums have shrunk back from the teeth, creating pockets. This method of measuring pocket depth is the gold standard used in dentistry. A pocket depth measuring one to two millimeters indicates healthy gums while three millimeters and deeper is a sign of gum disease. The deeper the pockets, the more severe the gum disease.

However, procedures using the periodontal probe are invasive, uncomfortable and sometimes painful for the patient. Measurements can also vary greatly between dentists, and the probe is only capable of measuring the pocket depth of one spot at a time.

In a paper published on Sept. 7 in the Journal of Dental Research, Jokerst and his team at UC San Diego introduced an innovative method that can image the entire pocket depth around the teeth consistently and accurately, without requiring any painful poking and prodding.

"Using the periodontal probe is like examining a dark room with just a flashlight and you can only see one area at a time. With our method, it's like flipping on all the light switches so you can see the entire room all at once," Jokerst said.

The method begins by rinsing the mouth with a paste made of commercially available food-grade squid ink mixed with water and cornstarch. The squid-ink-based rinse serves as a contrast agent for an imaging technique called photoacoustic ultrasound. This involves shining a light signal -- usually a short laser pulse -- onto a sample, which heats up and expands, generating an acoustic signal that researchers can analyze. "Light in, sound out," Jokerst said.

Squid ink naturally contains melanin nanoparticles, which absorb light. During the oral rinse, the melanin nanoparticles get trapped in the pockets between the teeth and gums. When researchers shine a laser light onto the area, the squid ink heats up and quickly swells, creating pressure differences in the gum pockets that can be detected using ultrasound. This method enables researchers to create a full map of the pocket depth around each tooth -- a significant improvement over the conventional method.

Researchers tested their photoacoustic imaging method in a pig model containing a mix of shallow and deep pockets in the gums. While their results closely matched measurements taken using a periodontal probe, they were also consistent across multiple tests. On the other hand, measurements with the periodontal probe varied significantly from one test to another.

"It's remarkable how reproducible this technique is compared to the gold standard," Jokerst said.

Moving forward, the team will be collaborating with dentists and testing their method in humans. Future work also includes minimizing the taste of the squid ink oral rinse -- it's salty and somewhat bitter -- and replacing laser lights with inexpensive, more portable light systems like LEDs. The team's ultimate goal is to create a mouthpiece that uses this technology to measure periodontal health.

Watch this video Q&A with Professor Jokerst to learn more about the technology.
-end-
Paper title: "Photoacoustic Imaging for Non-Invasive Periodontal Probing Depth Measurements." Authors of the study are Ching-Yu Lin, Fang Chen, Ali Hariri, Chien-Ju Chen and Jesse V. Jokerst of UC San Diego; and Petra Wilder-Smith and Thair Takesh of University of California Irvine.

This work was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (grants DP2 HL137187 and S10 OD021821).

University of California - San Diego

Related Ultrasound Articles:

Scientists develop noninvasive ultrasound neuromodulation technique
Researchers from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a noninvasive ultrasound neuromodulation technique, which could potentially modulate neuronal excitability without any harm in the brain.
World's first ultrasound biosensor created in Australia
Most implantable monitors for drug levels and biomarkers invented so far rely on high tech and expensive detectors such as CT scans or MRI.
Ultrasound can make stronger 3D-printed alloys
A study just published in Nature Communications shows high frequency sound waves can have a significant impact on the inner micro-structure of 3D printed alloys, making them more consistent and stronger than those printed conventionally.
Full noncontact laser ultrasound: First human data
Conventional ultrasonography requires contact with the patient's skin with the ultrasound probe for imaging, which causes image variability due to inconsistent probe contact pressure and orientation.
Ultrasound aligns living cells in bioprinted tissues
Researchers have developed a technique to improve the characteristics of engineered tissues by using ultrasound to align living cells during the biofabrication process.
Ultrasound for thrombosis prevention
Researchers established real-time ultrasonic monitoring of the blood's aggregate state using the in vitro blood flow model.
Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech
A new, more sensitive method to measure ultrasound may revolutionize everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.
Shoulder 'brightness' on ultrasound may be a sign of diabetes
A shoulder muscle that appears unusually bright on ultrasound may be a warning sign of diabetes, according to a new study.
Ultrasound-firewall for mobile phones
Mobile phones and tablets through so-called audio tracking, can be used by means of ultrasound to unnoticeably track the behaviour of their users: for example, viewing certain videos or staying in specific rooms and places.
Designing a new material for improved ultrasound
Development of a theoretical basis for ultrahigh piezoelectricity in ferroelectric materials led to a new material with twice the piezo response of any existing commercial ferroelectric ceramics, according to an international team of researchers from Penn State, China and Australia.
More Ultrasound News and Ultrasound Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.