There is not much that dentists can do at the moment to assess just how bad tooth decay, which effects even the most scrupulous of brushers, really is.
Adam Christie, chief executive of Calcivis, the company behind the new gadget, thinks that the Calcivis Caries Activity Imaging System could prove a hit with the dental profession. The new system, the brainchild of academic Dr Christopher Longbottom and developed by British scientists at the University of Dundee, helps dentists to measure precise levels of decay, or de-mineralisation, on the surface of the tooth and pinpoint areas where cavities are actively being formed.
A “demineralisation map” of the tooth is produced by brushing a special solution containing a photoprotein on to a patient’s tooth surface and then the imaging system is used to take photographs using a special camera. The map shows dentists where the enamel is wearing off, where there is active decay and where there are lesions and acid erosion.
Mr Christie explained “You get a complete picture of the tooth. It is simple and elegant. For a long time there has been a search for a way to identify active decay of the tooth surface. No one has been able to crack this so far. “This device will tell dentists that there is definitely active disease and decay on the tooth surface and help them make a judgement on what to do: should I use a sealant, fluoride treatment or help the patient monitor it? It will help them move from drill and fill to prevention.”
Edinburgh-based Calcivis plans to launch into the UK market next year, having been granted approval by European regulators. It’s also in the process of attaining US regulatory approval, which it hopes to win in the first half of 2017.
The hope is that Calcivis will give dentists, of which there are 20,000 in the UK, an edge, by allowing them to offer preventative medicine and additional treatments.
“Two-thirds of the dentists in our survey stated that, if the Calcivis System were available in their practice, the use of preventive products, such as sealants and fluoride varnishes, would increase, and 91pc thought that patient communication would improve” said Mr Christie.