In vivo confocal microscopy in clinical dental research: An initial appraisal

T. F. Watson, Walter M Petroll, Harrison D Cavanagh, J. V. Jester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Until recently, the in vivo microscopic investigation of intraoral tissues at high resolution has been virtually impossible. Confocal microscopy enables high-resolution imaging to be achieved below semitransparent surfaces in intact living specimens, but this may still be impractical for intraoral applications because of the need to stabilize the sample. The development of a steadying objective (x 240 overall mag.) which is held against the sample surface and is focused by moving internal elements, avoids the need for fine adjustment of the living sample under the microscope to achieve a change of focus. It is therefore more comfortable and also reduces the problems of movement due to the pulse. The objective was used with a tandem scanning microscope, with images recorded via a SIT video camera. Using this system internal tooth structure (e.g. enamel prisms/adhesive restoration interfaces) and the lining cells of the gingival crevice through to the junctional epithelium may be examined. It is also possible to image the oral mucous membrane, focusing to the capillary loops in the basal layers, where streaming red blood cells can be seen. Access is limited to the anterior regions as far back as the premolar teeth. Applications could include caries research, soft and hard tissue responses to biomaterials (e.g. implants), wound healing and monitoring the effect of periodontal treatment regimens. This new technique offers numerous exciting opportunities for the microscopic investigation of many clinical operative procedures in vivo, allowing the response of the tissues to be non-destructively monitored, over time, at high resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-358
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dentistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1992


  • Applications
  • Clinical research
  • Confocal microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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