Smartphone Camera Technology to Detect Oral Bacteria

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A team of researchers at the University of Washington, led by Ruikang Wang, have developed a method that uses smartphone-derived images to identify potentially harmful bacteria on skin and in oral cavities

“Bacteria on skin and in our mouths can have wide impacts on our health — from causing tooth decay to slowing down wound healing,” said Wang. “Since smartphones are so widely used, we wanted to develop a cost-effective, easy tool that people could use to learn about bacteria on skin and in the oral cavity.” Wang’s team augmented the smartphone camera’s capabilities by attaching a small 3D-printed ring containing 10 LED black lights around a smartphone case’s camera opening. The LED illumination gave the team enough visual information to computationally “convert” the RGB colors from the smartphone-derived images into other wavelengths in the visual spectrum. This initial study’s success could form the basis of new home-based methods to assess basic skin and oral health and also help identify potentially problematic bacteria in other medical contexts, such as wound healing on other parts of the body.

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