Light on plaque

Liverpool University researchers have developed a prototype dental product to identify plaque build-up in the mouth before it is visible to the human eye.

Liverpool University researchers have developed a prototype of a dental product that can identify plaque build-up in the mouth before it is visible to the human eye.

The toothbrush-sized device has a blue light at its tip, which, when shone around the mouth and viewed through yellow glasses with a red filter, allows plaque to be seen easily as a red glow.

The device, produced in collaboration with dental and healthcare developers Inspektor Research Systems, has been designed for use in the home.

Dentists currently use disclosing agents in tablet form to uncover tooth decay and plaque but these often stain the mouth and taste unpleasant. The new product, known as Inspektor TC, will be particularly useful for those groups who are vulnerable to dental diseases, such as children and the elderly.

Prof Sue Higham, from the University’s School of Dental Sciences, said: ‘It is extremely difficult to get rid of all plaque in the mouth. Left undisturbed it becomes what we call “mature” plaque and gets thicker. This is what leads to gingivitis, or bleeding gums, and decay.

‘Early-stage plaque is invisible, and so this device will show people the parts of the mouth that they are neglecting when they brush their teeth, enabling them to remove plaque before it becomes a problem.

‘We now hope to work with industry partners to develop this prototype further.’
 
The team received a Medical Futures Innovation Award for the product – a commendation that acknowledges significant innovation in science.