Pain-Free Dental Visits Thanks to Squid?

When you think of squid, you might think of those big-eyed alien looking things jetting around the ocean depths.

Or, you might think of a plate full of fried rubber bands you get as an appetizer at Applebee’s.

Soon, however, you might be thinking of a visit to the dentist’s office thanks to a new scientific breakthrough.

Engineers at the University of San Diego have developed a new imaging method that can find gum disease. It works by using squid ink and ultrasound.

The way things work now, getting checked for gum disease is about as pleasant as running into a barbed wire fence.

The dentist or periodontist inserts a periodontal probe’s metal hook between your teeth and gums. And, as with most things that involve a probe and insertion, it can hurt.

But thanks to the UCSD team’s discovery, no more probing is needed.

All you need to do is “gargle some food-grade squid ink mixed with water and cornstarch”. May not be as appetizing as apple pie but, hey, it beats the alternative.

Turns out the squid ink is rich in “melanin nanoparticles”. These particles get trapped in pockets between your teeth and gums. The particles will swell and create pressure differences in your gum pockets when a dentist shines a laser in your mouth.

Ultrasound can detect the pockets and create a map of your mouth.

With gum disease, if the pockets in your mouth are any deeper than 1 to 2 millimeters, it’s a sign of gum disease. So by looking at the map of your mouth your dentist can see the depth of these pockets and determine your gum’s health.

All thanks to squid.

The UCSD engineers are working to improve their process even more. First, they want to replace the lasers with LEDs to make things more affordable.

You’ll also be happy to note that they want to improve the taste of their squid ink milkshake so it’s not as salty and bitter.

Ultimately though, they want to create a mouthpiece that you simply place in your mouth and it will instantly assess your gum health.