Tooth decay, at its earliest stages, manifests itself as small, white, subsurface lesions in the enamel. Current methods for detection in the dental clinic are visual and tactile investigations, and bite-wing X-ray radiographs. These techniques suffer from poor sensitivity and specificity at the earliest (and reversible) stages of the disease due to the small size (<100μm) of the lesion. A fine-resolution (600 nm) ultra-broadband (200 MHz) all-optical photoacoustic microscopy system was is used to image the early signs of tooth decay. Ex-vivo tooth samples exhibiting white spot lesions were scanned and were found to generate a larger (one order of magnitude) photoacoustic (PA) signal in the lesion regions compared to healthy enamel. The high contrast in the PA images potentially allows lesions to be imaged and measured at a much earlier stage than current clinical techniques allow. PA images were cross referenced with histology photographs to validate our experimental results. Our PA system provides a noncontact method for early detection of white-spot lesions with a high detection bandwidth that offers advantages over previously demonstrated ultrasound methods. The technique provides the sensing depth of an ultrasound system, but with the spatial resolution of an optical system.
Hughes, D. A., Sampathkumar, A., Longbottom, C., & Kirk, K. J. (2015). Imaging and detection of early stage dental caries with an all-optical photoacoustic microscope. J. Phys. Conf. Ser., 581(1), 012002. https://doi.org/10.1088/1742-6596/581/1/012002