By Natasha Gayle
A color-changing tool may surpass traditional methods of testing for gingivitis (gum infection). Almost 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease and are not even aware of it, according to the American Dental Hygienist Association.
Testing for gingivitis or periodontitis can be time-consuming, expensive and even painful sometimes. The dentist will often poke a tiny ruler into the gum pocket next to a tooth to test the depth or take dental x-rays. Researchers at the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University discovered a color-changing dental strip that could actually transform the detection process into a cheap, simple, quick procedure.
Study subjects were divided into three groups: those with healthy teeth and gums, those with gingivitis (bleeding gums) and those with periodontitis (those with bleeding and receding gums.) Researchers tested everyone with the strips and found it a cheap, comparable method to traditional clinical evaluations like plaque index, pocket attachment and bleeding on probing.
"The strip changes from white to yellow depending on levels of microbial sulfur compounds found in the saliva," said lead researcher Ahmed Khocht, DDS, an associate professor of periodontology at the university. "A higher concentration of these compounds means a more serious case of gum disease, and shows up a darker shade of yellow."
Gingivitis and the more severe periodontitis can affect the entire body’s health, not just the mouth. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and contribute to illnesses like diabetes, blood infection and heart problems. The situation occurs when plaque builds up in the mouth and hardens into tartar, extending under the gum line and trapping bacteria. This infects the area and begins to eat away at the bone structure. The earlier a dentist notices the signs of gingivitis (gum infection), the earlier he or she can heal early gum infection and prevent this devastating disease.
This cheap dental test could save patients much money, both in detection procedures and in treatment if disease is confirmed. If caught early, dentists can effectively clear away the infection and offer oral hygiene advice to help prevent recurring issues.