TORONTO (Reuters) - A new analytical technique could allow dentists to detect gum disease just by having patients rinse their mouth with salt or baking soda, Canadian researchers said on Wednesday.
The analysis is done by measuring the level of white blood cells in a person's mouth, according to an upcoming study in the Journal of Periodontal Research. The study found that people with gum problems show a higher count of white blood cells, which are produced by the body to fight disease.
For patients, that would mean less poking and prodding of tender gums, and less time in the dreaded dentist's chair. "It's a non-invasive way to measure the level of infection and inflammation of the gums," said Michael Glogauer, a dentistry professor at the University of Toronto who developed the technique.
A 30-second rinse with a saltwater or baking soda solution is enough for the analysis to be carried out, he said, making it viable for regular medical use. And while the study used electronic equipment to measure its samples, his lab has since developed a rinse that changes color based on the level of white blood cells it contains.
"Hopefully, one day we can turn it into a tool that dentists use in their offices and maybe even patients use at home," Glogauer said. "For people who have a fear of going to the dentist, this is a way to have one less thing to worry about."
It also has multiple uses for dentists, he added. A high initial count of white blood cells is a sign of trouble, and subsequent tests showing lower levels indicate that the problem is getting better. "It can be used for not only diagnosing but measuring the success of treatment," Glogauer said.
Over 70 percent of Canadian adults experience gum disease at one time or another, according to figures from the Canadian Dental Association. Stemming from bacterial build-up in the teeth, it can range from mild forms such as gingivitis to more serious problems that require specialist care.