Close-up of a squid

Squid Ink In Dental Hygiene: Possible, Or Just Fishing For Something New?

Jan 09, 2018 

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

The potential of squid ink in dental hygiene is part of the newest research in the dental community. As it's still in the initial phases of research, it's unlikely that you've had any experience with it. Nonetheless, it's important to be aware of this and other potential advancements in dentistry. Dental patients are consumers and are always researching. To help ensure that you're able give patients accurate information when they ask you, it's key to stay current with the newest ideas within the dental community.

The Theory

Researchers are investigating whether a rinse consisting of squid ink mixed with water and cornstarch could replace periodontal probing in dental hygiene. The idea is this: The patient would simply swish with the squid ink rinse, which contains melanin nanoparticles that would become trapped in periodontal pockets. After the patient has swished, shining a laser into the area causes the squid ink to heat and swell, resulting in a pressure difference in the gum pocket. Then, the dental hygienist would use an ultrasound device to detect the attachment and pocket depths. The ultrasound identifies swelling of the squid ink, which functions as a contrast agent, indicating periodontal pockets present.


Those in favor of the technique claim traditional probing uses outdated instruments that are painful and time consuming, according to PBS. The new technique using squid ink and gum imaging may reduce bacterial transmission in pockets, since a periodontal probe is not used from pocket depth to pocket depth. It would also eliminate discomfort associated with insertion of a periodontal probe into the pockets. This less-invasive approach may decrease patients' fears of pain and blood.


Allergies are the main concern with using squid ink for oral care. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, fish and crustacean shellfish are two of the most common food allergens responsible for severe allergic reactions. Exposure to a common allergen could be dangerous if you are allergic to it.

Squid ink also has a bitter taste, and patients may not find it preferable to discomfort associated with periodontal probing, after all.

That said, the squid ink approach has only been tested on pig jaw, in the nanoengineering department at the University of California, San Diego. Jesse Jokerst, a professor at the University, has stated that the research will take "years and years" before this technology could become available.

Current Technology

It's important that dental hygienists allow themselves the opportunity to seek out ideas and technologies that could potentially help them better care for patients. While squid ink technology is still years away, other tools are available to help your patients now. Colgate's Gum Health Physical(GHP)is a new tool that makes your cleanings and exams more interactive. Providing an on-screen probe that helps you illustrate your process and findings is a great patient education tool. GHP also allows you to create and print a take-home sheet of home care instructions and diagrams to help increase patient compliance.


  • Dental researchers are excited at the prospect of an update to gum health exams.
  • Squid ink technology is still in the early stages of research and will it take years before it is potentially available.
  • Colgate's Gum Health Physical helps to make current techniques effective for patient education.

Why It's Important

Staying knowledgeable about the future of your field and experimental technologies is important for maintaining your own excitement for your career and for giving accurate information to curious patients. When a patient comes to you with word on the street about squid ink in dental hygiene, it's up to you to set the record straight with professional, evidence-based information.

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