Objective: Noninvasive optical methods such as photoplethysmography, established for blood pulse detection in organs, have been proposed for vitality testing of human dental pulp. However, no information is available on the mechanism of action in a closed pulp chamber and on the impairing influence of other than pulpal blood flow sources. Therefore, the aim of the present in vitro study was to develop a device for the optical detection of pulpal blood pulse and to investigate the influence of different parameters (including gingival blood flow [GBF] simulation) on the derived signals.
Materials and methods: Air, Millipore water, human erythrocyte suspensions (HES), non-particulate hemoglobin suspension (NPHS), and lysed hemoglobin suspension (LHES) were pulsed through a flexible (silicone) or a rigid (glass) tube placed within an extracted human molar in a tooth-gingiva model. HES was additionally pulsed through a rigid tube around the tooth, simulating GBF alone or combined with the flow through the tooth by two separate peristaltic pumps. Light from high-power light-emitting diodes (625 nm (red) and 940 nm (infrared [IR]); Golden Dragon, Osram, Germany) was introduced to the coronal/buccal part of the tooth, and the signal amplitude [∆U, in volts] of transmitted light was detected by a sensor at the opposite side of the tooth. Signal processing was carried out by means of a newly developed blood pulse detector. Finally, experiments were repeated with the application of rubber dam (blue, purple, pink, and black), aluminum foil, and black antistatic plastic foil. Nonparametric statistical analysis was applied (n = 5; α = 0.05).
Results: Signals were obtained for HES and LHES, but not with air, Millipore water, or NPHS. Using a flexible tube, signals for HES were higher for IR compared to red light, whereas for the rigid tube, the signals were significantly higher for red light than for IR. In general, significantly less signal amplitude was recorded for HES with the rigid glass tube than with the flexible tube, but it was still enough to be detected. ∆U from gingiva compared to tooth was significantly lower for red light and higher for IR. Shielding the gingiva was effective for 940 nm light and negligible for 625 nm light.
Conclusions: Pulpal blood pulse can be optically detected in a rigid environment such as a pulp chamber, but GBF may interfere with the signal and the shielding effect of the rubber dam depends on the light wavelength used.
Clinical relevance: The optically based recording of blood pulse may be a suitable method for pulp vitality testing, if improvements in the differentiation between different sources of blood pulse are possible.