Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Tooth Decay Detector

PostedApril 15, 2007

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Randy Atkins:  Cavities form as teeth lose mineral content.  Researchers say a combination of light and heat might detect the early stages of decay better than potentially harmful X-rays.

Andreas Mandelis:  If there is demineralization you have a different set of optical and thermal properties of the tooth.

Randy Atkins:  Andreas Mandelis, a University of Toronto engineer, built a device that mildly warms a tooth with a laser.  A detector then records the heat and light bouncing back.

Andreas Mandelis:  When you pass over a region that has demineralization then the signal changes.

Randy Atkins:  This could allow pinpoint interventions to stop decay and even restore minerals.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.

Researchers expect to be testing this on patients in about a year.  To find out more about this story, go to and click on “Innovative Engineering” under "Quick Links" at the very bottom of the page.