Shining a Light On Pet Dental Health
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Judi Allsopp taking a QLF image of a dog's teeth
Scientists often look to fellow experts, other professions and published work for inspiration, or more simply, stand on the shoulders of giants. This is exactly what the oral health team at WALTHAM did to improve methods to measure dental plaque in pets. In human dental research, a painless technique that involves shining light on teeth and taking specialised digital photos is commonly used. But no one had tried this on cats and dogs before.
QLF imaging detects the natural fluorescence of plaque, it can therefore pick up differences between healthy and plaque covered teeth and these differences can be accurately analysed by a computer. This gives a highly visual representation of where plaque covers the tooth surface, allowing dentists to diagnose problems and recommend effective interventions. In pets, however, the use of QLF has not been widely explored. Corrin Wallis and Judi Allsopp, from the WALTHAM Oral Health team, initially wanted to see if QLF was a technique that could be used on dogs. The first task was to modify the software to enable the annotation of dog’s teeth, which is different to humans. But dogs also offered another unique challenge: their big slobbery lips. It took a bit of improvisation, but the floppy lips were eventually managed using a lip retractor commonly used by dentists for children. Combining these two methods, and using a specially adapted camera, clear images of plaque on the dog's teeth were obtained.
To find out more about the caring science approach that WALTHAM uses, click here or watch our video, click here.
Corrin Wallis, Yadvinder Gill, Alison Colyer, Ian Davis, Judi Allsopp, Gleb Komarov, Susan Higham, Stephen Harris. 2016. Quantification of Canine Dental Plaque Using Quantitative Light-Induced Fluorescence. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry 33: 26-38
Zoe Marshall-Jones, Corrin Wallis, Judi Allsopp, Alison Colyer, Ian Davis, Lucy Holcombe. 2017. Assessment of dental plaque coverage by Quantitative Light-induced Fluorescence (QLF) in domestic short-haired cats. Research in Veterinary Science. In press. Now available online.