Application of a novel confocal imaging technique for the early detection of dental decay

Rousseau, C. and Girkin, J.M. and Vaidya, S. and Hall, A.F. and Whitters, C.J. and Creanor, S.L. (2002) Application of a novel confocal imaging technique for the early detection of dental decay. Proceedings of SPIE the International Society for Optical Engineering, 4610. pp. 92-98. ISSN 0277-786X (

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In order to stop or prevent the progression of dental disease, early detection and quantification of decay are crucially important. Dental decay (caries) detection methods have traditionally involved clinical examination by eye, using probes and dental radiography, but up to 60% of lesions are missed. What the dentist requires is a cheap, reliable method of detection of early disease, ideally with information on the depth and rate of growth or healing. Conventional commercial scanning confocal microscopes are unsuitable for use on dental patients. We report on a fibre optic based confocal microscope designed for in vivo examination of caries lesions. The system utilizes a common fibre both as the source and to detect the reflected confocal signal. The initial system has been optimized using dielectric mirrors and the thickness of the stack has been measured with high precision. Dental samples have been examined and the system has been demonstrated to provide information on the depth and mineral loss of a lesion. Fibre optic microscopy (FOCM) demonstrates a practical route to developing an in vivo caries profiler. In this paper, the FOCM and its applications in caries detection are described and the potential of this scheme as a practical dental probe is discussed.