Journal of Biomedical Optics • Open AccessImaging caries lesions and lesion progression with polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography
New diagnostic tools are needed for the characterization of dental caries in the early stages of development. If carious lesions are detected early enough, they can be arrested without the need for surgical intervention. The objective of this study was to demonstrate that polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography (PS-OCT) can be used for the imaging of early caries lesions and for the monitoring of lesion progression over time. High-resolution polarization resolved images were acquired of natural caries lesions and simulated caries lesions of varying severity created over time periods of 1 to 14 days. Linearly polarized light was incident on the tooth samples and the reflected intensity in both orthogonal polarizations was measured. PS-OCT was invaluable for removing the confounding influence of surface reflections and native birefringence necessary for the enhanced resolution of the surface structure of caries lesions. This study demonstrated that PS-OCT is well suited for the imaging of interproximal and occlusal caries, early root caries, and for imaging decay under composite fillings. Longitudinal measurements of the reflected light intensity in the orthogonal polarization state from the area of simulated caries lesions linearly correlated with the square root of time of demineralization indicating that PS-OCT is well suited for monitoring changes in enamel mineralization over time.