Cavities can't hide from tooth-zapping device

The Ortek ECD handpiece, with its probe tip(Credit: Ortek Therapeutics)

Dental cavities are one of those things where the sooner you catch them, the better. Dentists' visual inspections and x-rays certainly help, but a new hand-held device is designed to detect them even earlier. It's called the Ortek ECD (for Early Cavity Detection), and it hunts cavities using electricity.

First of all, tooth enamel itself isn't electrically conductive. When it's breached by even the smallest pre-cavity lesion or area of demineralization, however, dentinal fluid leaks out – and it does conduct electricity.

The battery-powered ECD handpiece has a small electrified tip that is applied to otherwise-dry molars and premolars. If dentinal fluid is present, the tip is able to complete its electrical circuit, and the dentist is notified.

It can also determine how much of the fluid there is, allowing users to determine the severity of any breaches. In human and lab tests, it has reportedly been able to "detect the earliest stages of tooth demineralization or pre-cavity lesions with 100 percent accuracy."

Ortek was recently awarded a US patent for the ECD, which was developed at New York's Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine. The company is now looking into commercialization, and pursuing US FDA and worldwide marketing clearances.

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