The Top 3 Exciting Discoveries in Dentistry this Week

1. Squid ink and ultrasound join forces to detect gum disease

How would you like to never use a periodontal probe again? Patients hate it, doctors hate it, but it's the best indication we've had of gum disease status, even if it is painful and time-consuming. Now, a team of engineers at UC San Diego have developed a non-invasive, high-precision method to image the entire periodontal pocket using a squid-ink rinse, a laser pulse, and an ultrasound receiver.

Patients rinse with the squid ink mixture, which naturally contains high concentrations of melanin. When the laser pulse is triggered, the melanin quickly swells microscopically, returning a photoacoustic signal that images the periodontal pockets. This results in a complete map of the pocket depth around each tooth in just a few painless seconds, that actually exceeds hand-probing in terms of its precision and accuracy. Calamari, anyone?

2. Chewing gum method rapidly detects a failing implant

Implants are now regarded as the gold standard for restoring the function of a missing tooth, but these prosthetic structures must be properly cared for just like the natural dentition. Anywhere from six to 15 percent of patients with one or more implants experience peri-implantitis due to bacterial activation of the patient's immune system, which causes a loss of soft tissue attachment and even bone resorption. Unfortunately, patients are often not aware of this process until either the implant simply falls out or becomes painful.

To combat this fact, researchers at JMU Würzburg in Germany have developed an "early-warning" system in the form of chewing gum. Developed to be an affordable and simple at-home test, patients simply chew the gum and pay attention to the flavor. The gum contains protein-bound bittering agents that are cleaved only by inflammatory enzymes. If the patient has peri-implantitis, within five minutes the gum will become exceptionally bitter, whereas a patient with a healthy mouth will experience no ill flavors. Imagine, rather than having a patient return at recall with a failing implant, simply send them home from the restoration appointment with a pack of this gum, and tell them to chew a piece once week and report whether they detect any bitterness. You can recall at the first sign of inflammation, rather than when it falls out in the patient's hand.

3. Household environment, not genetics, exerts greatest influence on oral microbiome

The personal microbiome is a topic of enormous excitement for medical researchers and clinicians seeking 21st-century methods to treat patients, and new discoveries about the benefits of a healthy microbiome emerge every day. However, there's one big assumption, and that's the idea that we receive the majority of our oral microbiome from our parents, and that the specific species and relative concentrations of microbiota in our system is genetically determined to some degree

Researchers from the UCL Eastman Dental Institute have found differently, using a remarkable data set consisting of DNA and saliva samples from an extended Ashkenazi Jewish family who lived in various different cities across three continents. The family members are extremely orthodox and therefore share cultural diets, and lifestyles, so essentially this data set controls for a wide variety of confounding variables that would otherwise be impossible to account for in other communities.

The results of the study were surprising, in that genetics and family lineage were not the strongest determiner of who shared the most similar salivary microbes. The most common genera of the salivary microbial community were Streptococcus, Rothia, Neisseria, and Prevotella, and were found to be highly conserved among members of the same household, but not between related family members, family members in the same city, or family members in the same region. This could mean that dental treatments targeting the oral microbiome may need to be administered to everyone in the family for full effect on the patient, among other exciting new avenues of research for the human microbiome.


Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, JMU. (2017, August 16). Chewing gum rapid test for inflammation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 26, 2017 from

University of California - San Diego. (2017, September 7). New dental imaging method uses squid ink to fish for gum disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 26, 2017 from

American Society for Microbiology. (2017, September 12). Household environment, not genetics, shapes salivary microbes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 26, 2017 from

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