Laser Imaging for Early Caries Detection and Cost-Effective Oral Health


To develop a low-cost imaging system for early detection of tooth decay

Anticipated Impact: 

An early-warning system for tooth decay that will enable more cost-effective management of caries lesions and improved dental health


Standard methods for detecting tooth decay - visual inspection, metal hand picks, and X-ray imaging - cannot detect the early stage of dental caries (cavity) formation, when it is still possible to restore (remineralize) the enamel without drilling. The goal of the proposed work is to develop  a prototype low-cost imaging system to detect early tooth decay, thus allowing intervention before dental fillings or tooth extraction are required as well as monitoring of the remineralization process without X-rays. Such early detection and intervention would be expected to reduce dental care costs and improve overall oral health. The proposed studies include adaptation of Dr. Seibel's existing laser-based endoscopic device for dental imaging and preliminary assessment of sensitivity and specificity in detecting early lesions in extracted teeth.

See also:

Tooth Decay Prevention, Detection, Treatment

Grant Update

Principal Investigator:
Eric Seibel
Grantee Organization:
University of Washington
Grant Title:
Laser Imaging for Early Caries Detection and Cost-Effective Oral Health
Grant Cohort and Year:
2010 First Round Commercialization (03)
Grant Period:
01/01/2011 - 12/31/2013 (Completed)
Grant Amount:
The project proposed using the scanning laser endoscope as a basis for changing oral dental health by moving from x-ray imaging of teeth to optical imaging and laser diagnostics of tooth decay which are much safer. The project succeeded in making a prototype device and testing it in children with promising results. A US Patent was filed specifically for determining the health of teeth, and the imaging portion of the medical device has been licensed to a start-up company in Washington State.

Impact in Washington

Location of LSDF Grantee
Locations of Collaborations/Areas of Impact

Legislative Districts:
11, 34, 36, 37, 43, 46

Health Impacts

Tooth Decay Prevention, Detection, Treatment