Near-Infrared Imaging for Detecting Caries and Structural Deformities in Teeth

IEEE J Transl Eng Health Med. 2017 Apr 19:5:2300107. doi: 10.1109/JTEHM.2017.2695194. eCollection 2017.


2-D radiographs, while commonly used for evaluating sub-surface hard structures of teeth, have low sensitivity for early caries lesions, particularly those on tooth occlusal surfaces. Radiographs are also frequently refused by patients over safety concerns. Translucency of teeth in the near-infrared (NIR) range offers a non-ionizing and safe approach to detect dental caries. We report the construction of an NIR (850 nm) LED imaging system, comprised of an NIR source and an intraoral camera for rapid dental evaluations. The NIR system was used to image teeth of ten consenting human subjects and successfully detected secondary, amalgam-occluded and early caries lesions without supplementary image processing. The camera-wand system was also capable of revealing demineralized areas, deep and superficial cracks, and other clinical features of teeth usually visualized by X-rays. The NIR system's clinical utility, simplistic design, low cost, and user friendliness make it an effective dental caries screening technology in conjunction or in place of radiographs.

Keywords: Demineralization; dental caries; near-infrared imaging; transillumination.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Department of Media Arts and Sciences of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.