ADASRI develops probe for detecting temperature, pH changes associated with gum disease

Technology could lead to earlier diagnoses

Chairside: This graphic shows how dentists could use a probe developed by scientists with the ADA Science & Research Institute to measure the temperature, pH and depth of periodontal pockets, transmit the measured values wirelessly, and store and analyze the data. The graphic appears with "Multifunctional Periodontal Probes and Their Handheld Electronic System for Simultaneous Temperature, pH, and Depth Measurements" in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

A probe developed by scientists with the American Dental Association Science & Research Institute could help dentists detect gum disease earlier by simultaneously measuring the temperature, pH and depth of periodontal pockets.

The researchers created temperature and pH sensors on the end of disposable, 3D-printed periodontal probe tips with dimensions and features similar to commercially available probes. The tips can be inserted into a reusable handheld body system containing electronics and software capable of signal processing, power control, display and wireless data transfer. The disposable probe tips and wireless body system are designed to be portable and easy to use chairside.

In their study titled "Multifunctional Periodontal Probes and Their Handheld Electronic System for Simultaneous Temperature, pH, and Depth Measurements,"  the researchers found the sensors could measure temperature and pH differences between healthy and inflamed periodontal sites within seconds, providing quantifiable information to detect disease activity. They tested the response and precision of each sensor in solutions of varying temperature and pH, representing the physiological range of the oral cavity.

These measurements could reveal early signs of inflammation that current methods relying on visual signs of inflammation or tissue loss, such as probing and radiography, may not identify, thus minimizing the potential tissue damage caused by periodontal disease.

"The current version of the developed probe can measure not only the pocket depth that manual probes can measure, but also the physiological values — temperature and pH — inside the pocket that can be used as an aid in the diagnosis of periodontal disease," said Shinae Kim, Ph.D., a manager in the ADASRI Lab of Oral and Craniofacial Innovation and one of the authors of the study, which was published in February by the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

One potential limitation of the probe system is that intraoral temperature and pH measurements may be susceptible to food intake and residues, time of day, smoking habits, tooth location, gender, and other dental conditions, such as root caries. However, the system is designed to record data over time, so changes in an individual patient's baseline values could be tracked to help control for these factors.

The scientists' goal is to integrate biosensors on the probe tips that can measure biomarkers associated with periodontal disease. Their probe system could provide simultaneous measurements of a variety of biomarkers at specific gingival sites.

"If the biosensors are successfully integrated on the probes, it is expected that changes in the amount of biomarkers related to periodontal disease can be easily measured only by probing in the clinic," Dr. Kim said. "This will contribute to shortening the time of diagnosis and prognosis of periodontal disease and improving the accuracy."

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