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New technique using squid ink could replace dental probing

A mouthful of squid ink may not sound like something you'd want in your life, but it could help replace the probes used to test for gum disease. Presently, dentists use sharp instruments to look at patients' mouths for signs of gum disease. This is painful and often bloody for patients, and it's frustrating to dentists and hygienists who have to worry about missing symptoms due to patients' fears.

Dental probing is important, since it helps identify gum disease. It's painful and can transmit bacteria from one part of the mouth to another, but it's still the only process dentists have used, and it's been used for decades. That's a problem, since failure to diagnose is the main cause of worsening gum disease and eventual tooth loss.

The failure to diagnose is the main reason for periodontal offices getting sued by their patients, a growing problem among dentists. The only way to stop it with the current technology is to essentially hurt patients more by completing a long, painful process of poking and prodding their gums.

A new technology could help, though. First, squid ink is swished in the patient's mouth, then an ultrasound is used. The squid ink swells up and places pressure on the gum pockets, which then show up on the ultrasound easily. Clinical trials are planned on humans, but it has already been performed on pig jaws. The new technique could reduce the chance of a failed diagnosis, helping more patients get the appropriate level of care they need earlier. This could save their teeth and prevent further deterioration.

Source: PBS News Hour, "Could a mouthful of squid ink replace painful dental probes for gum disease?," Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, accessed Jan. 23, 2018

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