[ skip to content ]


A film crew from The Discovery Channel will be on campus Thursday, Dec. 14, to gather footage of a new ultrasonic probe being tested in the Old Dominion University Dental Hygiene Research Center.

The periodontal probe uses ultrasound technology to measure the depth of the space, or pocket, around a tooth. Most dentists use a manual probe, which looks like a metal toothbrush with a prick on the end where the bristles would be in a toothbrush. The periodontal probe is noninvasive, which means the device, which looks like a short plastic wand, is placed on the outside -- not the inside -- of the pocket around the tooth. A stream of water flows near the gumline to serve as a conductor for ultrasound.

In addition to being easier for the practitioner to use and being painless for the patient, the new technology used for the probe allows the practitioner to take a more accurate reading than can be determined using a regular (manual) periodontal probe, which requires the practitioner to place the probe inside the periodontal space and use his or her tactile sensitivity and visual reading to determine the pocket depth.

Filmmakers will interview Gayle McCombs, assistant professor of dental hygiene, who is Old Dominion's lead researcher on the project, which is being conducted jointly with the College of William and Mary and a private company in Richmond. The Richmond business secured patent rights from NASA, which developed the probe.

According to Cheryl Samuels, dean of the College of Health Sciences, the probe "has the potential to be an important advancement for the early, accurate and painless diagnosis of periodontal diseases. The company's selection of the Old Dominion Dental Hygiene Research Center and Gayle McCombs for the clinical testing of this product demonstrates the respect and confidence they hold for the School of Dental Hygiene."

The documentary will air first in Canada and then in the U.S. on the Discovery Channel (Cox Channel 58) and PBS, and is expected to be reach more than 33 million people.

This article was posted on: December 12, 2000

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.