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J Biomed Opt. 2008 Sep-Oct;13(5):054053. doi: 10.1117/1.2992129.

Assessment of early demineralization in teeth using the signal attenuation in optical coherence tomography images.

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National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Biodiagnostics, 435 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 1Y6, Canada.


Optical coherence tomography imaging is used to improve the detection of incipient carious lesions in dental enamel. Measurements of signal attenuation in images acquired with an 850-nm light source were performed on 21 extracted molars from eight human volunteers. Stronger attenuation was observed for the optical coherence tomography (OCT) signal in healthy enamel than in carious lesions. The measured attenuation coefficients from the two groups form distinct statistical populations. The coefficients obtained from sound enamel fall within the range of 0.70 to 2.14 mm(-1) with a mean value of 1.35 mm(-1), while those in carious regions range from 0.47 to 1.88 mm(-1), with a mean value of 0.77 mm(-1). Three values are selected as the lower threshold for signal attenuation in sound enamel: 0.99, 0.94, and 0.88 mm(-1). These thresholds were selected to provide detection of sound enamel with fixed specificities of 90%, 95%, and 97.5%, respectively. The corresponding sensitivities for the detection of carious lesions are 92.8%, 90.4%, and 87%, respectively, for the sample population used in this study. These findings suggest that attenuation of OCT signal at 850 nm could be an indicator of tooth demineralization and could be used as a marker for early caries detection.

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