Speaking at one of the opening sessions at the Institute of Physics conference Photon 04 in Glasgow, Simon Poland outlined a new way of making a detailed 3D picture of a diseased area of a tooth, which could be done while a patient waits.
Simon Poland, from the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde, working with colleagues at the Glasgow Dental Hospital, and the University of Dundee, has used an existing imaging technique which creates optical sections (individual images or slices through a 3D object) using structured light (a beam of light in a grid pattern). They applied this technique to human teeth for the first time and succeeded in producing a 3D image a diseased area of a tooth.
The scientists took a tooth with an area of known decay and shone a beam of structured infra-red light (of around 880nm) using a halogen lamp. They took sets of 3 images at different spatial phases and combined them using standard image processing techniques. This produces an optically sectioned image - many image 'slices,' which are put together to form a whole 3D image.
Speaking at Photon 04, the UK's premier conference for photonics and optics, Simon Poland said: "We've successfully produced a 3D image of a region of tooth decay which will allow dentists to study the process of decay, caused by food and drink, in great detail and in real time, as the disease occurs, rather than after the fact."
He continued: "The technique is fast and simple and we could attach an endoscope to our kit to allow dentists to use the device in the surgery. They would shine the endoscope at the tooth they wanted to examine, and by using high-speed CCD camera, the image could be delivered very quickly, in around twenty minutes or so."