Researchers develop phone camera that identifies dental plaques

Researchers at Seattle-based University of Washington have developed a way to use smartphone images to identify potentially harmful bacteria in oral cavities and on the skin.

The researchers outlined their approach in a paper published by Optics and Lasers in Engineering. The team combined a smartphone-case modification with image-processing methods to illuminate bacteria on images taken by a typical smartphone camera. The camera can identify bacteria in the oral cavity that can cause gingivitis and dental plaques.

"Since smartphones are so widely used, we wanted to develop a cost-effective, easy tool that people could use to learn about bacteria on skin and in the oral cavity," said Ruikang Wang, PhD, lead study author and professor of bioengineering and of ophthalmology at University of Washington.

The method could form the basis of new at-home methods used to assess basic skin and oral health, providing users with information about whether they need to visit a dentist, for example. 

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