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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: Michael Duncan
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 2 — Jan. 24, 2005
  • pp: 573–582

Imaging of occlusal dental caries (decay) with near-IR light at 1310-nm

Christopher M. Bühler, Patara Ngaotheppitak, and Daniel Fried  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 13, Issue 2, pp. 573-582 (2005)

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Dental enamel manifests high transparency in the near-IR. Previous work demonstrated that near-IR light at 1310-nm is ideally suited for the transillumination of interproximal dental caries (dental decay in between teeth) [1]. However, most new dental decay occurs in the pits and fissures of the occlusal (biting) surfaces of posterior teeth. These caries lesions cannot be detected by x-rays during the early stages of decay due to the overlapping topography of the crown of the tooth. In this study, a near-IR imaging system operating at 1310-nm was used to acquire occlusal images by launching the near-IR light into the buccal surface of the tooth just above the gingival margin (gum-line). The near-IR light diffuses through the highly scattering dentin providing uniform back illumination of the enamel of the crowns allowing imaging of the occlusal surfaces. The near-IR images show high contrast between sound and demineralized areas. Demineralization (decay) can be easily differentiated from stains, pigmentation, and hypomineralization (fluorosis). Moreover, the high transparency of the enamel enables imaging at greater depth for the detection of subsurface decay hidden under the enamel. These early images suggest that the near-IR offers significant advantages over conventional visual, tactile and radiographic caries detection methods.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(110.3080) Imaging systems : Infrared imaging
(170.1850) Medical optics and biotechnology : Dentistry

ToC Category:
Research Papers

Original Manuscript: November 15, 2004
Revised Manuscript: January 11, 2005
Published: January 24, 2005

Christopher Bühler, Patara Ngaotheppitak, and Daniel Fried, "Imaging of occlusal dental caries (decay) with near-IR light at 1310-nm," Opt. Express 13, 573-582 (2005)

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