New at-home test for gingivitis protects oral health

at-home test for gingivitis
Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

US engineers have developed a new device that can warn consumers about early risks of tooth decay from diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease, is caused by bacteria. But not just any bacteria. The problem for researchers was getting a device to single out the particular type responsible for the disease.

“It’s been quite the challenge to get to the point where we can detect this toxin created by the bacteria responsible for gingivitis,” Professor Andrew Steckl at the University of Cincinnati said.

Professor Steckl and his team described their results in Sensors and Diagnostics.

The research team—a collaboration between UC researchers and Procter & Gamble Co—has been exploring biosensing for various applications. 

“There are good reasons to use saliva,” Professor Steckl said. 

“It’s relatively plentiful and easy to obtain through non-invasive methods. And saliva has a lot of important elements that can act as indicators of your health.”

Bacteria from gingivitis can travel through the bloodstream, leading to cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems. But saliva is a complicated biofluid.

The researchers pre-treated the sample using potato starch to remove a protein called amylase that could interfere with the test results. Their test uses antibodies that react to the endotoxins found in the bacteria.

At-home health testing has been available for generations in niche uses such as detecting pregnancy. But the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a wide audience of consumers to the concept of monitoring their health with new technology. Professor Steckl said he sees a lot of opportunity for new consumer products.

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