Squid Ink Could Help Make it Easier to Identify Periodontal (Gum) Diseases In the Near Future

The ocean is a mysterious place; mostly because it is not something you can just simply go and explore. And the creatures and plants which survive below the surface are very different from what are accustomed to, here on land. Of course, this has led to great fascination about our planet’s oceans and scientists have led many expeditions to learn more about the depths of life under the water.

One of the most interesting—and helpful—things we have learned is just how nutritious ocean plants and animals can be to humans. While we know that seaweed and salmon, for example, are very health to eat, the latest research says that squid might also be helpful too, but not in a way you might anticipate. The latest research, out of the University of California, San Diego, has led to the development of an imaging method that uses squid ink and ultrasound to check the mouth for gum issues.

Yes, the new method uses squid ink to find periodontal disease.

You see, squid ink is high in melanin. Melanin is the chemical that colors the skin. When mixed with water and cornstarch, melanin can be used in a rinse to get trapped between your teeth and gums. Next, the dentist can shine a laser into your mouth, which activates the nanoparticles in the squid ink to swell and create pressure in these pockets where they are trapped. Then the dentist can use ultrasound to create a map of your mouth.

With this map, then, your dentist (or periodontist or other specialist) can see just how deep these pockets are; essentially rating the health of your gums.

Of course, these tests—and corresponding results—are preliminary, but the implications are excellent. The current periodontal probing techniques are invasive and uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. UCSD nanoengineering professor Jesse Jokerst explains that it involves using a “periodontal probe” which is a thin, hook-like metal tool that makes a mark between your teeth and gums to measure shrinkage.

“Using the periodontal probe,” she laments, “is like examining a dark room with just a flashlight and you can only see one area at a time. With our method, it’s like flipping on all the light switches so you can se the entire room all at once.”

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