Imaging Sci Dent.  2021 Jun;51(2):107-115. 10.5624/isd.20200259.

Photoacoustic imaging of occlusal incipient caries in the visible and near-infrared range

  • 1Graduate Program in Dentistry, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
  • 2Department of Physics, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
  • 3Faculty of Dentistry, Centro Universitário Tabosa de Almeida, Caruaru, Brazil


This study aimed to demonstrate the presence of dental caries through a photoacoustic imaging system with visible and near-infrared wavelengths, highlighting the differences between the 2 spectral regions. The depth at which carious tissue could be detected was also verified.
Materials and Methods
Fifteen permanent molars were selected and classified as being sound or having incipient or advanced caries by visual inspection, radiography, and optical coherence tomography analysis prior to photoacoustic scanning. A photoacoustic imaging system operating with a nanosecond pulsed laser as the light excitation source at either 532 nm or 1064 nm and an acoustic transducer at 5 MHz was developed, characterized, and used. En-face and lateral (depth) photoacoustic signals were detected.
The results confirmed the potential of the photoacoustic method to detect caries. At both wavelengths, photoacoustic imaging effectively detected incipient and advanced caries. The reconstructed photoacoustic images confirmed that a higher intensity of the photoacoustic signal could be observed in regions with lesions, while sound surfaces showed much less photoacoustic signal. Photoacoustic signals at depths up to 4 mm at both 532 nm and 1064 nm were measured.
The results presented here are promising and corroborate that photoacoustic imaging can be applied as a diagnostic tool in caries research. New studies should focus on developing a clinical model of photoacoustic imaging applications in dentistry, including soft tissues. The use of inexpensive light-emitting diodes together with a miniaturized detector will make photoacoustic imaging systems more flexible, user-friendly, and technologically viable.


Diagnostic Imaging; Dental Caries; Photoacoustic Techniques; Tomography; Optical Coherence
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