A chair-side test that could help to identify damaging gum diseases before they present symptoms could be closer to reality thanks to a grant won by a dental academic.

Dr Svetislav Zaric, Clinical Associate Professor in Biomedical Science at the University of Plymouth Peninsula Dental School, has been awarded £14,100 by the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust to develop a test to detect high potency LPS in the mouth, which can lead to periodontitis – an issue prevalent in ageing.

LPS is part of what makes up endotoxin – a toxic substance bound to the bacterial cell wall. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, but LPS strength can change and, with that, a person’s likelihood of developing periodontal disease increases.

The current test involves an LPS extraction process which, although effective, takes a few days to return results. Dr Zaric is hoping to explore how the process can be accelerated.

The test will quickly look for a high potency of LPS and, if it is found, will enable dentists to prescribe sub-gingival (under the gum) cleaning to help prevent disease.

Dr Zaric, a dentist with Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, said: “By the time the disease presents symptoms in the mouth, it is often too late to help. But by conducting this test for LPS, we’re able to identify someone’s risk of developing periodontal disease so we can work on prevention.

“I’ve been really pleased with the effectiveness of the test so far, but in order to make it as useable as possible, I want the results to be available chairside.

“I’m really grateful for the funding as the Trust supports medical projects and those helping the elderly, so to have my periodontal research recognised as part of this is great.”

Dr Zaric has also been awarded a travel grant by the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust to train at the Texas A&M University in the use of perioscopy.

A perioscopy is a minimally invasive dental endoscope that allows clinicians and hygienists to see magnified details of tooth anatomy below the gum line which help to diagnose and treat periodontal disease.

He added: “Being able to use something with as little invasiveness as this will be brilliant. As we’re able to see under the gumline, it’ll enable us to go into the pocket of the gum and explore further, making a difference to those patients who don’t react to conventional therapy.”