This Sea Creature Could Save Gums

Octopus underwater

Much like any other medical field, the field of dentistry is constantly revealing new breakthroughs in both dental science and technology. From extracting stem cells from wisdom teeth to a gel that could someday heal cavities, the possibilities on the horizon of dentistry are nothing short of amazing. One such product that is currently in research stages could someday replace the periodontal pocket-measuring system we currently use in dentistry. Here’s what you need to know.

Squid ink. That’s right. We said squid ink – that dark, murky fluid released into the water by squids and other cephalopods when they feel threatened – could someday be used to measure your periodontal pocket depth. But how – and why?

When cephalopods (large, predatory mollusks such as nautilus, squid and octopus) become scared, they release a dark, inky substance for the purpose of darkening the surrounding water so they can escape from predators – kind of like a smoke screen. That ink contains melanin that could help fill in periodontal pockets. The ink isn’t dangerous to humans unless they have a shellfish allergy, making it an ideal choice for a new treatment that is in the research stages.

It would work like this: First, the patient would swish a fluid made with squid ink. The ink’s melanin would enter the periodontal pockets and then be heated and expanded under the light of a laser device operated by your dentist or hygienist. The dental professional would then measure the expanded areas with an ultrasound device instead of inserting the probe that is currently used to measure periodontal pockets. The procedure would be far less invasive and much more comfortable than the current treatment.

One major drawback, of course, is that squid are seafood, and this type of treatment would not be possible for those with shellfish allergies, those who keep Kosher or certain other diets, and those who are vegan or vegetarian. Another drawback? This treatment is years away from becoming a reality, so even if your diet permits it, it could be awhile before you get to try it.

In the meantime, if you are at all nervous about getting your periodontal pockets measured, don’t hesitate to speak to Dr. George about your fears – and remember, the best way to eliminate pain during a periodontal exam is to take excellent care of your gums: Brush twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, and floss your teeth at least once a day.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on October 14th, 2019