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New method to detect gum disease

North Carolina residents might like to know about the latest advances in the dental industry. One researcher may have found a way to conduct dental probes that produces less pain and more accurate results.

When dentists use periodontal probes to look for gum disease during checkups, metal hook-shaped sticks are used to measure gaps between the tooth and gum. The pocket depth is greater in those with diseased gums. The uncomfortable nature of this probe makes it a source of anxiety for patients, and it can be difficult for hygienists and dentists to catch all symptoms.

A professor has proposed a new method that involves imaging and squid ink. This non-invasive alternative would use a high-resolution photoacoustic ultrasound to create acoustical pressure waves with a laser that produces a short light burst. Squid ink is necessary because it is dark and contains material that absorbs light. The squid ink would heat and swell when the laser is used, which would create pressure differences in gum pockets that the ultrasound could detect.

Trials were conducted with pig jaws and are now being planned for humans. The ink would be the same type used in cooking and is safe to consume and does not permanently stain teeth. While also saving hassle, this procedure offers better results. Dentists sometimes hurry or spot check with the old method, which reduces accuracy.

When considering hypothetical cases of gum disease, not every delayed diagnosis signals malpractice. For example, a dentist could carefully and properly check a patient's teeth and still miss something due to the technological limitations of the hook-shaped tool. As the dentist acted accordingly and the tool is in widespread use, a mistake might not equal negligence. However, a failure to diagnose could possibly constitute malpractice if a dentist missed a sign of gum disease because of a rushed exam due to time constraints and the patient suffered harm as a result.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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