Dental device identifies early-stage plaque and tiny cavities

A team of scientists from Liverpool University has helped to develop a system that can identify early tooth decay and plaque before it is visible to the human eye.

The Identifi system, which comprises a handheld intra-oral device and an external computer system, makes use of a technique called Qualitative Light Induced Fluorescence (QLF) in which teeth are illuminated with a high-intensity light, after which they start to fluoresce.

Since the fluorescence of the teeth has a direct relation with the mineral content of the enamel of the teeth, by capturing an image of the teeth on a clinical digital camera in the device, it is then possible to visualise early-stage plaque and tiny cavities.

Images can then be transferred using wireless technology to a computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone for immediate assessment and evaluation by a dental care professional.

Its developers claim that Identifi will be of particular benefit to orthodontic patients to highlight plaque left behind after cleaning.

Identifi was developed by a team from the university in collaboration with dental healthcare developer Inspektor Research Systems. The original concept for the device began more than a decade ago when the Liverpool team wished to incorporate QLF technology into clinical SLR cameras.

Identifi will continue to be used in clinical trials and a launch is anticipated in summer 2012.