Our Research : Fundamental Technologies : Oral Science

Developing Pre-Cavity Detection Technologies

Cavities—One of the Most Familiar Oral Afflictions
Cavities, or dental caries, are holes that develop on the surface of teeth, leading to pain. Recent research has made it possible to detect cavities in their earliest stages, before a hole forms, and provide care to prevent these pre-cavities from becoming full-blown cavities. This approach, which eliminates the need to grind away part of the tooth to provide treatment, is now being adopted worldwide.

Lion was quick to see the potential of this approach and has been developing pre-cavity diagnostic technologies since the 1990s. One such technology is the QLFTM System. Based on appearance alone, it can be hard to distinguish a pre-cavity from a healthy tooth surface, and naked-eye inspections often fail to detect pre-cavities unless performed by the most experienced of dentists. As such, there is a need for an objective, quantitative diagnostic method. When a tooth is exposed to blue visible light it fluoresces. The tooth’s crystalline structure is rougher where a pre-cavity is forming, causing the light to scatter and making the fluorescence appear darker compared with healthy areas. The QLFTM System takes advantage of this phenomenon to make pre-cavities more visible and precisely measure them. Figure 1 shows an artificially induced pre-cavity before and after 14 days of treatment with a fluoride toothpaste. Making pre-cavities visible enables not just early detection, but also the easy and quantitative monitoring of their remineralization and return to health.

Examining the hidden interior structure of the tooth typically requires cutting the tooth into thin slices and using x-ray photography, but Lion boasts non-destructive microfocus CT scan (“micro CT”) technology that can do the job. Creating cavity prevention techniques requires detailed analysis of a tooth’s anatomical structure over time. Of all the teeth, the molars are the most prone to cavities. Figure 2 is a three-dimensional micro CT image of a molar before and after treatment with fluoride toothpaste. Micro CT technology makes it possible to confirm that the pre-cavity at the bottom of the molar’s groove is being re-mineralized and is improving due to treatment with fluoride toothpaste.

Lion is applying these cutting-edge pre-cavity diagnostic technologies to product development, creating new, more effective anti-cavity toothpastes.

R&D Case Study—Oral Science