Optical Assessment of Caries Lesion Structure and Activity
New, more sophisticated diagnostic tools are needed for the detection and characterization of caries lesions in the early stages of development. It is not sufficient to simply detect caries lesions, methods are needed to assess the activity of the lesion and determine if chemical or surgical intervention is needed. Previous studies have demonstrated that polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography (PS-OCT) can be used to nondestructively image the subsurface lesion structure and measure the thickness of the highly mineralized surface zone. Other studies have demonstrated that the rate of dehydration can be correlated with the lesion activity and that the rate can be measured using optical methods. The main objective of this work was to test the hypothesis that optical methods can be used to assess lesion activity on tooth coronal and root surfaces.
Simulated caries models were used to develop and validate an algorithm for detecting and measuring the highly mineralized surface layer using PS-OCT. This work confirmed that the algorithm was capable of estimating the thickness of the highly mineralized surface layer with high accuracy. Near-infrared (NIR) reflectance and thermal imaging methods were used to assess activity of caries lesions by measuring the state of lesion hydration. NIR reflectance imaging performed the best for artificial enamel and natural coronal caries lesion samples, particularly at wavelengths coincident with the water absorption band at 1460-nm. However, thermal imaging performed the best for artificial dentin and natural root caries lesion samples. These novel optical methods outperformed the conventional methods (ICDAS II) in accurately assessing lesion activity of natural coronal and root caries lesions.
Infrared-based imaging methods have shown potential for in-vivo applications to objectively assess caries lesion activity in a single examination. It is likely that if future clinical trials are a success, this novel imaging technology will be employed for the detection and monitoring of early carious lesions without the use of ionizing radiation, thereby enabling conservative non-surgical intervention and the preservation of healthy tissue structure.