WO2016051301A1 - Liquid droplet approach to clearing blockage of a plaque detection stream probe - Google Patents

Liquid droplet approach to clearing blockage of a plaque detection stream probe Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2016051301A1
WO2016051301A1 PCT/IB2015/057060 IB2015057060W WO2016051301A1 WO 2016051301 A1 WO2016051301 A1 WO 2016051301A1 IB 2015057060 W IB2015057060 W IB 2015057060W WO 2016051301 A1 WO2016051301 A1 WO 2016051301A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
plaque
liquid
apparatus
probe
clearing
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IB2015/057060
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Mark Thomas Johnson
Johannes Hendrikus Maria Spruit
Okke Ouweltjes
Steven Charles Deane
Edgar Martinus Van Gool
Original Assignee
Koninklijke Philips N.V.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US201462056671P priority Critical
Priority to US62/056,671 priority
Application filed by Koninklijke Philips N.V. filed Critical Koninklijke Philips N.V.
Publication of WO2016051301A1 publication Critical patent/WO2016051301A1/en

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61BDIAGNOSIS; SURGERY; IDENTIFICATION
    • A61B5/00Detecting, measuring or recording for diagnostic purposes; Identification of persons
    • A61B5/45For evaluating or diagnosing the musculoskeletal system or teeth
    • A61B5/4538Evaluating a particular part of the muscoloskeletal system or a particular medical condition
    • A61B5/4542Evaluating the mouth, e.g. the jaw
    • A61B5/4547Evaluating teeth
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61CDENTISTRY; APPARATUS OR METHODS FOR ORAL OR DENTAL HYGIENE
    • A61C17/00Devices for cleaning, polishing, rinsing or drying teeth, teeth cavities or prostheses; Saliva removers; Dental appliances for receiving spittle
    • A61C17/02Rinsing or air-blowing devices, e.g. using fluid jets or comprising liquid medication
    • A61C17/022Air-blowing devices, e.g. with means for heating the air
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61CDENTISTRY; APPARATUS OR METHODS FOR ORAL OR DENTAL HYGIENE
    • A61C17/00Devices for cleaning, polishing, rinsing or drying teeth, teeth cavities or prostheses; Saliva removers; Dental appliances for receiving spittle
    • A61C17/02Rinsing or air-blowing devices, e.g. using fluid jets or comprising liquid medication
    • A61C17/028Rinsing or air-blowing devices, e.g. using fluid jets or comprising liquid medication with intermittent liquid flow
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61CDENTISTRY; APPARATUS OR METHODS FOR ORAL OR DENTAL HYGIENE
    • A61C17/00Devices for cleaning, polishing, rinsing or drying teeth, teeth cavities or prostheses; Saliva removers; Dental appliances for receiving spittle
    • A61C17/16Power-driven cleaning or polishing devices
    • A61C17/20Power-driven cleaning or polishing devices using ultrasonics

Abstract

An apparatus (100, 200) for dental plaque detection, including a detection component (133) and a clearing component (146). The detection component may be configured to generate an air stream (30) and enable passage of the generated air stream through a distal probe tip (112) of a distal probe portion (110) of the apparatus to detect plaque based on measurement of a signal (510) caused by the plaque at least partially obstructing passage of the generated air stream through the distal probe. The clearing component may include a liquid reservoir and be configured to generate liquid droplets that are intermittently passed through the distal probe to prevent or clear a blockage (23) of the probe. Methods include clearing an blockage of a probe by intermittently passing a generated liquid droplet through the probe.

Description

LIQUID DROPLET APPROACH TO CLEARING BLOCKAGE

OF A PLAQUE DETECTION STREAM PROBE

Field of the Invention

[0001] The present disclosure is directed generally to clearing a blockage from a stream probe used to detect plaque on a dental surface.

Background

[0002] Periodontal diseases are thought to be infectious diseases caused by bacteria present in dental plaques. Removal of dental plaques is highly important for the health of oral cavities. Tooth brushing is a highly effective method to remove dental plaque from the teeth, provided the toothbrush is actually used in such a fashion to reach all areas where plaque resides. Since users cannot see the presence of dental plaque with the naked eye, a variety of plaque detection apparatuses have been developed to aid in the detection of dental plaque.

[0003] For example, one type of dental plaque apparatus that is effective in detecting dental plaque utilizes a detection probe through which a flow, such as an air flow, is pumped and of which the pressure modulations in response to contact with dental plaque that temporarily obstructs the probe, or clean surfaces that do not obstruct the probe, can be monitored to detect the presence or absence of dental plaque.

[0004] When using a plaque detection stream probe, an unwanted blockage of the probe tip may occur, as opposed to the temporary obstruction caused by contact with dental plaque. The blockage can be a full blockage, or it can be a partial blockage. Particles, especially those in toothpaste, may block the small opening of the stream probe, which may be less than 500 microns in size. In addition, dental plaque, saliva, or food particles may block the probe. When a partial blockage is encountered, pressure increase occurs. This pressure increase will then be interpreted by the plaque detection apparatus as a dental plaque obstruction present on this location, even though the surface is clean. This results in a false positive (i.e. the user thinks there is dental plaque present, when there is not). If the blockage does not clear, then the pressure increase will be continuous, and false readings will continue to occur. Improvements can be made using a DC subtraction method in the signal analysis. However, a large pressure increase may result in a decreased flow rate and consequently reduced signal quality. Furthermore, in the case of a full blockage, the probe will be unusable, as no flow can occur.

[0005] Accordingly, there is a need in the art for methods and apparatus for preventing and removing unwanted full and partial blockages that can occur when using a plaque detection stream probe.

Summary of the Invention

[0006] The present disclosure is directed to inventive methods and apparatus for dental plaque detection that prevent and/or clear blockage of a stream probe caused by dental plaque or other debris. Various embodiments and implementations herein are directed to a plaque detection method and apparatus in which a detection component provides a flow, such as an air flow, from a probe to detect plaque on a dental surface, while a clearing component provides one or more liquid droplets to a probe tip to prevent and/or remove blockages that can occur during use of the device.

[0007] Using the various embodiments and implementations herein, effective cleaning of a blocked stream probed can be substantially improved by allowing liquid droplets to pass through the stream probe either during operation or after operation is completed, thus preventing and/or clearing blockage by toothpaste, saliva, food particles, dental plaque, or other substances or particles.

[0008] For example, in some embodiments, the stream probe apparatus is a plaque detection device that includes a detection module with an air stream generator and a pressure sensor that is configured to measure feedback from the air applied to the dental surface to characterize the dental surface. In these embodiments, the plaque detection device also includes a clearing module that creates liquid droplets of a predetermined size or volume and applies the liquid droplets to the stream probe tip. These liquid droplets, which can be applied intermittently at a predetermined rate, clear and remove the blockages that can occur at the probe tip. The liquid droplets may consist of cleaning liquid, mouth rinse, water, or the like, and may be re-fillable during the lifetime of the stream probe apparatus. [0009] In some embodiments, the plaque detection device includes a detection module with an air stream generator and a pressure sensor that is configured to measure feedback from the air applied to the dental surface to characterize the dental surface. The detection and blockage clearing system may include a separable clearing module that creates liquid droplets of a predetermined size or volume and applies the liquid droplets to the probe tip. These liquid droplets, which can be applied intermittently, clear the blockages that can occur at the probe tip.

[0010] Generally in one aspect, an apparatus for plaque detection including a detection component is configured to generate an air flow and allow passage of the air flow through a distal tip of a distal probe portion of the apparatus, where the passage of the air flow through the distal probe portion enables detection of plaque based on measurement of a signal caused by the plaque at least partially obstructing passage of the generated air flow through the distal tip; and a clearing component that has a liquid reservoir and is configured to generate at least one liquid droplet from the liquid reservoir, and is further configured to enable passage of the at least one liquid droplet through the distal tip such that passage of the liquid droplets through the distal tip removes a blockage of the distal tip.

[0011] According to an embodiment, the clearing component is further configured to enable intermittent passage of the at least one liquid droplet through the distal tip.

[0012] According to an embodiment, the detection component is configured to detect the passage of a liquid droplet from the liquid reservoir, such that the passage is not measured as being caused by the presence of plaque.

[0013] According to an embodiment, the liquid is selected from the group consisting of water, mouth rinse, and a cleaning fluid.

[0014] According to an embodiment, the apparatus further includes at least one activation mechanism configured to selectively activate the generation of the air flow.

[0015] According to an embodiment, the apparatus further includes at least one activation mechanism configured to selectively activate the passage of the liquid droplet from the liquid reservoir through the distal tip.

[0016] According to an embodiment, the apparatus further includes a timing mechanism configured to dispense a liquid droplet from the liquid reservoir. [0017] Generally, in one aspect, a method for detecting plaque includes the steps of detecting, by a detection component of an apparatus, the presence of plaque, which includes the steps of generating an air flow, passing the generated air flow through a distal tip of a distal probe portion of the apparatus, and detecting the plaque based on measurement of a signal caused by the plaque at least partially obstructing the passage of the generated air flow through the distal tip. However, if the distal tip of the probe becomes blocked by particles lodging in or at the tip of the passage, the system will generate false positive readings, or if fully blocked the system can cease operation. Clearing a blockage of the distal tip by a clearing component of the apparatus includes the steps of generating at least one liquid droplet from a liquid reservoir of the clearing apparatus, and passing the generated liquid droplet through the distal tip.

[0018] According to an embodiment, the step of clearing a blockage of the distal tip further comprises intermittently passing the at least one generated liquid droplet through said distal tip.

[0019] As used herein for purposes of the present disclosure, the term "obstruction" refers to the temporary presence of plaque at the tip of the stream probe which occurs during normal operation of the detection mechanism. The term "blockage" refers to the presence of debris, toothpaste, food, saliva, plaque, or other substances that prevents the normal operation of the stream probe; a blockage can be either partial or full. The term "controller" is used generally to describe various apparatus relating to the operation of a stream probe apparatus, system, or method. A controller can be implemented in numerous ways (e.g., such as with dedicated hardware) to perform various functions discussed herein. A "processor" is one example of a controller which employs one or more microprocessors that may be programmed using software (e.g., microcode) to perform various functions discussed herein. A controller may be implemented with or without employing a processor, and also may be implemented as a combination of dedicated hardware to perform some functions and a processor (e.g., one or more programmed microprocessors and associated circuitry) to perform other functions. Examples of controller components that may be employed in various embodiments of the present disclosure include, but are not limited to, conventional microprocessors, application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

[0020] In various implementations, a processor or controller may be associated with one or more storage media (generically referred to herein as "memory," e.g., volatile and non-volatile computer memory such as RAM, PROM, EPROM, and EEPROM, floppy disks, compact disks, optical disks, magnetic tape, etc.). In some implementations, the storage media may be encoded with one or more programs that, when executed on one or more processors and/or controllers, perform at least some of the functions discussed herein. Various storage media may be fixed within a processor or controller or may be transportable, such that the one or more programs stored thereon can be loaded into a processor or controller so as to implement various aspects of the present invention discussed herein. The terms "program" or "computer program" are used herein in a generic sense to refer to any type of computer code (e.g., software or microcode) that can be employed to program one or more processors or controllers.

[0021] The term "user interface" as used herein refers to an interface between a human user or operator and one or more devices that enables communication between the user and the device(s). Examples of user interfaces that may be employed in various implementations of the present disclosure include, but are not limited to, switches, potentiometers, buttons, dials, sliders, track balls, display screens, various types of graphical user interfaces (GUIs), touch screens, microphones and other types of sensors that may receive some form of human-generated stimulus and generate a signal in response thereto.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[0022] In the drawings, like reference characters generally refer to the same parts throughout the different views. Also, the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead generally being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.

[0023] FIG. 1 is a schematic representation of a stream probe having a pump portion supplying a continuous stream of gas via a tube to a probe tip while measuring the internal tube pressure in accordance with an embodiment.

[0024] FIG. 2 is a schematic representation of a stream probe having a pump portion supplying a continuous stream of gas via a tube to a probe tip while measuring the internal pump pressure in accordance with an embodiment.

[0025] FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of a stream probe having an obstruction during normal operation (left), the obstruction caused by dental surface material such as dental plaque, and an unobstructed stream probe (right), in accordance with an embodiment.

[0026] FIG. 4 is a schematic representation of (left) sample pressure measurement versus time for the unobstructed stream probe of FIG. 3 and (right) sample pressure measurement versus time for the obstructed stream probe of FIG. 3, in accordance with an embodiment.

[0027] FIG. 5 is a schematic representation of pressure signal versus time for a stream probe in accordance with an embodiment.

[0028] FIG. 6 is a schematic representation of a stream probe tip in accordance with an embodiment.

[0029] FIGS. 7 and 8 are schematic representations of partially (FIG. 7) and fully (FIG. 8) blocked stream probe tips in accordance with an embodiment.

[0030] FIG. 9 is a schematic representation of a stream probe having a detection component and a clearing component, in accordance with an embodiment.

[0031] FIG. 10 is a schematic representation of a stream probe having a detection component and a clearing component, in accordance with an embodiment.

[0032] FIG. 11 is a schematic representation of a stream probe clearing component, in accordance with an embodiment. [0033] FIG. 12 is a schematic representation of a clearing component, in accordance with an embodiment.

[0034] FIG. 13 is a stream probe system incorporated into a dental apparatus such as an electric toothbrush, in accordance with an embodiment.

[0035] FIG. 14 is a flow chart of a method for detecting plaque and clearing blockages, in accordance with an embodiment.

Detailed Description of Embodiments

[0036] The present disclosure describes various embodiments of apparatus, systems, devices, and methods that prevent and/or clear blockages of a dental plaque stream probe caused by dental plaque or other debris. More generally, Applicants have recognized and appreciated that it would be beneficial to clear blockages in a stream probe caused by plaque or other debris. For example, effective cleaning of a blocked probe is substantially improved by allowing one or more droplets of liquid to pass through the stream probe toward the tip of the probe either during operation or after operation is completed. In view of the narrow dimension of the stream probe, the total volume of liquid required for the cleaning is minimal, and thus a dedicated liquid droplet cleaning device in the toothbrush handle may be included. The device may contain a dedicated cleaning liquid and may optionally be re-fillable during the lifetime of the brush handle.

[0037] A particular goal of utilization of the embodiments of the present disclosure is to be able to detect plaque within a vibrating brush system surrounded with toothpaste foam, e.g., a Philips Sonicare™ toothbrush (manufactured by Koninklijke Philips Electronics, N.V.).

[0038] In view of the foregoing, various embodiments and implementations are directed to an apparatus and method in which a plaque detection device includes a detection module with an air stream generator and a pressure sensor that is configured to measure feedback from the air applied to the dental surface in order to characterize the dental surface. The plaque detection device also includes a clearing module that creates liquid droplets of a predetermined size or volume and applies the liquid droplets to the probe tip. These liquid droplets, which can be applied intermittently at a predetermined rate, clear the blockages that can occur at the probe tip. The liquid droplets may consist of cleaning liquid, mouth rinse, water or the like, and may be re- fillable during the lifetime of the stream probe apparatus.

[0039] Plaque Detection

[0040] Referring to FIG. 1, in one embodiment, a detection apparatus for detecting the presence of a substance on a surface is provided, exemplified by a stream probe that includes a pressure sensor to demonstrate the principle of plaque detection by pressure sensing and measurement. More particularly, stream probe 100 includes a proximal pump portion 124, a central pressure sensing portion 120, and a distal probe portion 110, defining a distal probe tip 112 with an interior channel 115. The proximal tubular syringe portion 124 includes a reciprocally movable plunger 126 initially disposed in the vicinity of proximal end 124'.

[0041] During operation of the stream probe 100, a continuous air stream 30 is supplied by the plunger 126 through the central pressure sensing portion tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112. As the plunger 126 moves along the length towards distal end 124" of the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, the pressure inside the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 is measured using pressure meter P that is in communication with the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 and the distal probe portion 110. In one embodiment, the pressure sensor P may function either alternatively or additionally as a flow sensor, e.g., as a differential pressure sensor. Those skilled in the art will recognize that flow of the air through the distal probe tip 112 may be detected by means other than pressure sensors such as pressure sensor P, e.g., acoustically or thermally. The embodiments are not limited in this context. Consequently, the movement of the plunger 126 induces a change in pressure or flow through the distal probe tip 112.

[0042] Referring to FIG. 2, according to one embodiment, a stream probe 100' is provided. The central pressure sensing portion 120 depicted in stream probe 100 in FIG. 1 is omitted, and stream probe 100' includes only proximal pump portion 124 and distal probe portion 110. A pressure sensor PI is now exemplarily positioned at plunger 126' to sense pressure in the proximal pump portion 124 via an aperture 128 in the plunger 126'. Alternatively, a pressure sensor P2 may be positioned in the distal probe portion 110 at a mechanical connection 230. In one embodiment, the pressure sensor P2 may function either alternatively or additionally as a flow sensor, e.g., as a differential pressure sensor. Those skilled in the art will recognize that flow of the air through the distal probe tip 112 may be detected by means other than pressure sensors such as pressure sensor P2, e.g., acoustically or thermally. The embodiments are not limited in this context. Consequently, the movement of the plunger 126 induces a change in pressure or flow through the distal probe tip 112.

[0043] Referring to FIG. 3, according to one embodiment, a method of detecting the presence of a substance on a surface is provided. FIG. 3 illustrates, for example, the influence of an obstruction of the distal probe tip 112 of the probe 100 of FIGS. 1 and 2. The probe or stream probe tubular member or stream probe 110' illustrated in FIG. 3 includes a proximal end 138 and interior channel 134. The stream probe 110' differs from stream probe 100 in FIGS. 1 and 2 in that the stream probe 110' includes a chamfered or beveled distal probe tip 112' having an open port 136 that is chamfered at an angle a with respect to the horizontal surface 31 or 33 such that passage of the air through the distal probe tip 112, now designated as air 30' since it has exited from the distal probe tip 112', is also enabled when the distal probe tip 112' touches the dental surface 31 or 33, and the air 30' is also enabled to flow through the chamfered open port 136. The angle a of the chamfer of the open port 136 is such that passage of the air 30' through the distal probe tip 112' is at least partially obstructed when the distal probe tip 112' touches the dental surface 31 or 33 and a material 116, at least partially obstructs the passage of air through the open port 136 of the distal probe tip 112'. Although only one probe 110' is required to detect obstruction of the passage of air, in one exemplary embodiment, it may be desired to deploy at least two probes 110' as a system 300 to detect obstruction of the passage of air. Other shapes for the distal tips of the distal probe portions of the various embodiments are contemplated herein. These shapes also prevent false positives by ensuring that on a flat surface an air flow escapes from the distal tip.

[0044] Alternatively, the distal probe tips 112 of FIGS. 1 -3 can be utilized without chamfered or beveled ends and simply held at an angle (such as angle a) to the dental surface 31 or 33. The probe or probes 110' can have a very small diameter, e.g., less than 0.5 millimeters, such that by their spring function the distal probe tip 112' will make contact with the dental surface 33, and when reaching the plaque the tube is pressed into this layer of plaque.

[0045] As illustrated on the left portion of FIG. 3, when the distal probe tip 112' becomes blocked by material 116 from the dental surface 31, then air stream 30 (which can be, for example, air or any other gas) will flow less easily out of the distal probe tip 112', as compared to when distal probe tip 112' is not blocked and is without dental material at the distal probe tip 112' or at dental surface 33, as illustrated in the right portion of FIG. 3.

[0046] FIG. 4 illustrates, for example, pressure signal 510 of a probe tip, e.g., a metal needle with a bevel, moving on enamel without plaque, as illustrated on the left, and on a sample with a plaque layer, as illustrated on the right. The increase in pressure seen in the right portion, attributed to obstruction of the needle opening by the plaque, can be sensed to detect if plaque is present. Similarly, FIG. 5 illustrates pressure signals of an airflow from a Teflon tip (not shown) moving over water in region 1, PMMA (polymethyl methylacrylate) in region 2, PMMA with plaque region in 3, and water in region 4. When reference is made to pressure differences herein, consideration of the following should be taken into account. In FIG. 4, the air stream 30 is obstructed when the pressure increases on the left panel. So the parameter of interest is the average pressure or average or momentary peak pressure. In contrast, FIG 5 illustrates identical signals for a smaller probe tip, in which case a much smoother signal is obtained.

[0047] In addition to maintaining a constant velocity of the plunger, the plaque detection can be performed by maintaining constant pressure in the proximal pump portion and measuring the variable outflow of the air from the probe tip. The readout and control can be configured in different ways. For example, the apparatus may record the variable pressure and/or the variable flow of the air. In one embodiment, the pressure is recorded and the flow of the air is controlled, e.g., the flow is kept constant. In another embodiment, the flow is recorded and the pressure of the air is controlled, e.g., the pressure is kept constant. Additionally, when two or more stream probes 110' are deployed for system 300, one of the stream probes 110' may include pressure sensing of the flow of the air through the distal probe tip 112' while another of the stream probes 110' may include strain sensing or flow sensing.

[0048] Probe Blockage and Clearing

[0049] In preliminary experiments, it was determined that the distal probe tip 112 of stream probe 100 is prone to partial or full blockage due to plaque, saliva, food particles, and/or particles in cleaning formulations such as toothpaste, among other types of debris. These blockages prevent the flow of air from the probe tip, thereby incapacitating the stream probe 100. [0050] Referring to FIG. 6, according to an embodiment, is provided a portion of stream probe 100 with a distal probe tip 12 having an open port 136, which can be a variety of shapes including round, square, starred, triangular, oval, or any of a variety of other shapes. According to this embodiment, the distal probe tip 12 defines an interior channel 115 through which air stream 30 can be directed. The stream probe can be configured, for example, such that air stream 30 is brought in contact with a dental surface 13, such as a tooth, at distal probe tip 12. Under normal operating circumstances, the stream probe 100 will direct air stream 30 through interior channel 115 and out through open port 136 to come in contact with dental surface 13.

[0051] In contrast, referring to FIGS. 7 and 8, according to various embodiments, are provided the same stream probe 100 and distal probe tip 12, although open port 136 has been blocked by blockage 23, which can be partial (FIG. 7) or full (FIG. 8). In that case, port 136 is no longer able to act as a channel for air stream 30. Blockage 23 can take many shapes and sizes, and can be located either partially or entirely within or on the open tip and/or interior channel 115. Blockage 23 can be plaque, saliva, food particles, and/or particles in cleaning formulations such as toothpaste, among other types of debris. The blockage can occur during use, during storage, or at any other point during the lifetime of the stream probe.

[0052] Because blockage 23 prevents the outflow of air stream 30, the obstruction will cause an increase in the pressure measured by a pressure sensor such as P, PI, or P2, as shown, for example, in FIGS. 1, 2, 9, and 10. The pressure increase caused by blockage 23 will be interpreted by stream probe 100 as an obstruction caused by plaque being present at the location, a false positive result. If blockage 23 does not clear from open port 136, then the pressure increase will be continuous and false readings may continue to occur. In the case of a full blockage as shown in FIG. 8, stream probe 100 may be completely unusable.

[0053] Referring to FIG. 3 (left panel), according to one embodiment, is provided a stream probe 110' configured to prevent and/or clear a blockage of the open port 136. Stream probe 110' includes an interior channel 134 with an air stream 30. The stream probe detection system can be configured, for example, such that air stream 30 is brought in contact with dental surface 33, such as a tooth, at distal probe tip 12. In order to prevent or clear a blockage, according to one embodiment, interior channel 134 can also include one or more liquid droplets 121, such as water or a cleaning fluid. The stream probe detection system can be configured, for example, such that liquid droplets 121 are periodically or intermittently dispensed from a liquid reservoir 125 (shown in FIG. 9) through interior channel 134 and out through open port 136. The periodic or intermittent dispensing of liquid droplets 121 will prevent a partial blockage from developing or from increasing, or will clear a full blockage of open port 136. For example, the liquid droplets, of which there may only be one, can be acted on by air stream 30 pressure system described and envisioned herein in order to apply a force to the blockage of interior channel 134 or open port 136. According to an embodiment, liquid droplets 121 can be dispensed either during operation of the stream probe 110', or after operation of stream probe 110' has completed.

[0054] Referring to FIG. 9, according to an embodiment, is provided a detection apparatus for detecting the presence of a substance on a surface, exemplified by a stream probe that includes a pressure sensor P to demonstrate the principle of plaque detection by pressure sensing and measurement. More particularly, stream probe 100 includes a detection component 133 that includes, for example, a proximal pump portion 124, a central pressure sensing portion 120, and a distal probe portion 110 defining a distal probe tip 112 with interior channel 115. The proximal tubular syringe portion 124 includes a reciprocally movable plunger 126 initially disposed in the vicinity of proximal end 124'. A continuous air stream 30 is supplied through the central pressure sensing portion tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112, such as through the action of plunger 126, although many other methods and mechanisms of forceful air movement are possible. For example, a continuous air stream 30 is supplied through the plunger 126, such as via an aperture in the plunger 126 or from a branch connection connecting to the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112. As the plunger 126 moves towards distal end 124" of the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, the pressure inside the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 is measured using pressure meter P that is in fluid communication with the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 and the distal probe portion 110.

[0055] To facilitate the prevention and clearing of blockages, stream probe 100 as shown in FIGS. 9, 10, 11 also includes a clearing component 146 that includes, for example, a liquid reservoir 125 that contains a liquid 127 such as water, a cleaning fluid, or a variety of other liquids suitable for preventing and/or clearing blockages. Liquid 127 is supplied as one or more liquid droplets 121 from the liquid reservoir 125 via branch connection 123 that leads to the distal probe tip 112. The one or more liquid droplets 121 are periodically or intermittently dispensed from a liquid reservoir 125 into the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, where it encounters air stream 30. Air stream 30 is supplied through the central pressure sensing portion tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112, such as through the action of plunger 126, although many other methods and mechanisms of forceful air movement are possible. The one or more liquid droplets 121 are forced along with air stream 30 through interior channel 115 to open port 136, where it can prevent a blockage from developing or from increasing, or can clear a full blockage of open port 136.

[0056] According to one embodiment, for example, liquid droplets 121 may be dispensed before, during, and after use of the stream probe. Alternatively, to extend the life of the liquid within the liquid reservoir, a reduced droplet release rate could be utilized, such as a droplet release that occurs only following the conclusion of use of the stream probe. As yet another embodiment, pressure monitoring can be used to indicate that blockage has occurred before a droplet is created. This embodiment would minimize the use of liquid 127, thereby extending lifetime of reservoir and limiting any negative effects of expelling a liquid drop during tooth cleaning (e.g. unpleasant taste). In combination with small liquid droplets, the lifetime of a liquid reservoir could be increased to several years, thereby allowing for non-refillable reservoirs that are viable for the entire lifetime of the stream probe.

[0057] While FIG. 9 illustrates the one or more liquid droplets 121 being dispensed from a liquid reservoir 125 into the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, it should be understood that reservoir can be located within or near the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120, and/or within or near the distal probe portion 110. At any of these locations, the dispensed liquid droplet(s) 121 will encounter air stream 30 and exit the stream probe 100 through interior channel 115 at open port 136, where it can prevent a blockage from developing or from increasing, or can clear a full blockage of open port 136.

[0058] Referring to FIG. 10, according to an embodiment, is provided a stream probe 100 with detection component that includes a proximal pump portion 124, a central pressure sensing portion 120, and a distal probe portion 110, defining a distal probe tip 112. According to this embodiment, liquid reservoir 125 is located within the proximal pump portion 124, and the one or more liquid droplets 121 are supplied directly from liquid reservoir 125 into a continuous air stream 30. In addition to the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 9 and 10, the liquid reservoir can be located anywhere on and/or in the stream probe 100, as long as the stream probe is configurable to allow one or more liquid droplets to reach the open port 136.

[0059] Referring to FIG. 11 , according to an embodiment, is provided a clearing component 146 including a liquid reservoir 125 containing or configured to contain a liquid 127 such as water, a cleaning fluid, or a variety of other liquids suitable for preventing and/or clearing a blockage. As described above, clearing component 146 can be located on and/or within any portion of stream probe 10. In this embodiment, the clearing component includes a dispenser 140 that facilitates the egress of the one or more liquid droplets 121 from inside liquid reservoir 125. Dispenser 140 can be any means or mechanism capable of controlling or moderating the amount of liquid 127 that leaves the liquid reservoir to serve as liquid droplets. Accordingly, dispenser 140 can control the approximate volume of each of the liquid droplets 121, such as by controlling the opening and closing of an aperture, as well as the size of the aperture. Alternatively, dispenser 140 can be a pump, driver, piston, or other mechanism that applies force to push the liquid droplets 121. Preferably, the dispenser controls the approximate volume of each of the liquid droplets 121 that exit the liquid reservoir. As illustrated in FIG. 11, for example, the clearing component 146 may include a gate 137 that controls the approximate volume of each of the liquid droplets 121. Gate 137 may include, for example, one or more apertures, and may be utilized with dispenser 140, or may operate independently to control liquid droplets 121.

[0060] According to an embodiment of stream probe 10, interior channel 115 and/or open port 136 may be between 100 and 300 microns in diameter, and is preferably 100 to 300 microns in diameter. Thus, the one or more liquid droplets 121 can be configured to have dimensions similar to the tube diameter, although shorter droplets might be suitable with a wider interior channel 115 and/or open port 136. For example, according to an embodiment with a 300 micron tube diameter and a 1 mm length droplet, a typical droplet volume of around 300 x 300 x 1000 microns, about 100 nanoliters (nL), is required. A droplet of this size could be created by a variety of methods in addition to the mechanisms described and envisioned above. For example, according to one embodiment, a liquid droplet is created using an inkjet or inkjet-like printing nozzle, where several hundreds of droplets may be combined to form the single droplet of approximately 100 nL. As another example, according to an embodiment, a liquid droplet is created by opening a very narrow valve, such as a needle valve, from a pressurized reservoir (e.g., pressurized passively with a spring). As yet another example, according to an embodiment, a liquid droplet is created using an under-pressurized element of the pressure provision system to draw out a droplet from an unpressurised reservoir (e.g. through a needle valve).

[0061] Referring to FIG. 12, according to an embodiment, is provided a block diagram representation of the various possible elements of clearing component 146, including a controller 1200, a gate 137, and a liquid reservoir 125. Controller 1200 may be configured or programmed to output instructions to gate 137, dispenser 140, and/or any other element of the clearing component in order to control the production and/or dispensing of the one or more liquid droplets 121. For example, controller 1200 may be programmed or configured to generate a control signal that directs gate 137 to open for a certain period of time, or an aperture in gate 137 to open to a certain size. According to another aspect, controller 1200 may control other dedicated or shared circuitry. Controller 1200 can be or have, for example, a processor 1210 programmed using software to perform various functions discussed herein, and can be utilized in combination with a memory 1220. Memory 1220 can store data, including one or more commands or software programs for execution by processor 1210, as well as various types of data. For example, the memory 1220 may be a non-transitory computer readable storage medium that includes a set of instructions that are executable by processor 1210, and which cause the system to execute one or more of the steps of the methods described herein.

[0062] Clearing component 146 may include, for example, an input module 1260 configured or programmed to provide input data to controller 1200. For example, input module 1260 may include feedback from the stream probe 100 indicating that buildup has occurred at open port 136, or is likely to occur at open port 136. Input module 1260 can also provide data to controller 1200 about the activity and operation of the stream probe, about other characteristics of one or more elements of the stream probe, about the dental surface, or about other data sources that may be relevant to the operation of the clearing component 146. For example, input module 1260 may send a signal to controller 1200 whenever the stream probe is activated for use. Thus, input module 1260 may be a motion detector that automatically detects when the device is being utilized. As another example, input module 1260 may send a signal to controller 1200 when the stream probe detects a possible false positive scenario, such as when blockage 23 is causing a prolonged period of pressure build-up. As another example, input module 1260 may send a signal to controller 1200 when the stream probe detects an amount of plaque above a certain threshold, such that blockages will be more likely to occur and thus that more liquid droplets may be necessary to clear and/or prevent the formation of blockages.

[0063] In one embodiment, for example, the generation and/or intermittent passing of the liquid droplets 121 is activated in response to an increase in pressure. In other words, clearing component 146 will be activated when the detected pressure rises above background or above a predetermined or preprogrammed threshold. The increase in pressure will indicate use of the stream probe, and since use of the stream probe significantly increases the likelihood of blockage, activating clearing component 146 in response to the increased pressure will ameliorate situations where blockage is likely to occur.

[0064] According to one embodiment, the method includes the step of selectively activating the generation and/or intermittent passing of the liquid droplets 121. This can be achieved, for example, by a switch, a timer, or a variety of other activation mechanisms described or otherwise envisioned herein. For example, according to one embodiment, an activation mechanism 1270 can send a signal to controller 1200, such as through input module 1260, to selectively activate the generation and/or intermittent passing of the liquid droplets 121. Activation mechanism 1270 can be a switch or variety of other activating systems. In one embodiment, activation mechanism 1270 can be a timer that determines that a predetermined amount of time has expired since the last round of generation and/or intermittent passing of the liquid droplets, and can initiate a next round of liquid droplet generation. The activation mechanism can accomplish that, for example, by communicating with the clearing component 146 to generate a plurality of liquid droplets. In another embodiment, activation mechanism 1270 can be a sensor that detects an increase in pressure from a signal received from the detection component 133, and then sends a signal to the controller 1200 and/or clearing component 146 to initiate a next round of liquid droplet generation. As yet another embodiment, activation mechanism 1270 can include an external switch that a user acts on to activate and deactivate the clearing component.

[0065] Clearing component 146 may include, for example, a timer 1240 that is configured and/or programmed to facilitate the creation and egress of the one or more liquid droplets 121 according to a predetermined schedule. For example, the clearing component may be programmed, either at the factory or by the user, to dispense liquid droplets according to a predetermined schedule, such as every few seconds or minutes, or according to any schedule that is determined to be optimal for clearing and/or preventing blockages while also conserving the amount of liquid 127 used. The programming and/or functioning of timer 1240 may coordinate with, or be preempted by, input module 1260. For example, timer 1240 may be programmed with different timing schedules that can be selected based on feedback from the user, data from the input module about the conditions of the stream probe and/or the dental surface, or any of a wide variety of other inputs. Notably, timer 1240 may be a module or feature of controller 1200 and/or processor 1210, or can be a separate element that is in communication with the controller and/or processor.

[0066] Clearing component 146 may also include, for example, an alert mechanism 1250. For example, controller 1200 and/or processor 1210 may be configured or programmed to continuously or periodically determine the exact or approximate level of liquid 127 within liquid reservoir 127. When a certain threshold is reached, or the amount of liquid 127 is completely exhausted, the alert mechanism 1250 can send an alert to the user. Alternatively, the gate 137 or controller 1200 may be configured or programmed to monitor the amount of liquid 127 that exits the reservoir, and can subtract that amount from a starting amount. When the remaining amount reaches a certain threshold, or is exhausted, an alert can be sent to the user. The alert can be a visual alert, an audible alert, and/or a tactile alert.

[0067] According to one embodiment, liquid reservoir 125 may contain enough liquid 127 to last the estimated lifetime of stream probe 10. For example, if stream probe 100 has a usable lifespan of approximately 1 year, liquid reservoir 125 can contain enough liquid to last for approximately one year of normal use. Further, the clearing component can be configured and/or programmed to conserve liquid 127 if use is light, if the amount of liquid is depleting at a rate that will exhaust the liquid before the end of the stream probe's lifetime, or if the likelihood of blockage is determined to be low, among other various scenarios. For example, the amount and/or volume of liquid droplets dispensed by clearing component 146 can decrease over the lifetime of the stream probe based on the prediction that the user's dental surfaces are likely to have less plaque, and therefore fewer blockages, over time as the stream probe is used.

[0068] Alternatively, liquid reservoir 125 may be refillable during the lifetime of stream probe 10. For example, as described herein, the stream probe can include an alert mechanism to notify the user when the amount of liquid in the reservoir is low or depleted. The user can then refill the liquid reservoir with liquid 127, which can be water and/or a cleaning fluid such as a mouthwash, rinse, or other anti-bacterial and/or anti-blockage liquid. Refilling the reservoir may be as simple as opening an inlet and allowing the refill liquid to pour or drip into the reservoir through the outlet. Alternatively, refilling the reservoir may require the use of a plunger or other mechanism to provide force to pull or push liquid into the reservoir. As yet another embodiment, liquid reservoir 125 may be a removable, and therefore replaceable, cartridge located within and/or on stream probe 10. For example, pointing to the embodiment depicted in FIG. 10, liquid reservoir 125 can be a removable cartridge that snaps or otherwise fits within a portion of the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, or some other portion of stream probe 10. As just one example, the removable cartridge may be a flavor cartridge that contains flavored, colored, and/or scented liquid 127 within a liquid reservoir.

[0069] According to another embodiment, the water droplets are approximately 1 μΐ or less. Preliminary experiments, shown in TABLE 1, demonstrate that one or two liquid water droplets of 1 μΐ or less are capable of reducing and/or clearing the blockage, as reported by the reduced output voltage of the pressure sensor. In other words, the higher the voltage of the pressure sensor, the greater the blockage, and vice versa. In these preliminary experiments, blockage clearing takes place during or directly after use of the stream probe, such that the blockage does not have the opportunity to dry onto the probe.

[0070] TABLE 1

Figure imgf000019_0001

[0071] Thus, the data in TABLE 1 demonstrates that a blockage may be cleared or reduced by as few as 1 or 2 μΐ of liquid. Using droplets of this size, a liquid reservoir of approximately 1 cm3 would be able to clear a blockage approximately 500-1000 times, which according to an embodiment would be sufficient for approximately one year of use of the stream probe. Thus, if droplets of this size are utilized, the stream probe would require a reservoir that is refilled every few months or once a year by the user, or be used by a stream probe that is itself replaced once a year. [0072] Detection and Clearing Apparatus

[0073] Referring to FIG. 13, in accordance with an embodiment, is provided a detection and clearing apparatus 200 for detecting the presence of plaque on a dental surface and clearing blockages that can occur during use. Traditionally, an electric toothbrush system similar to the one depicted in FIG. 13, such as a Philips Sonicare™ toothbrush, comprises a body component and a distal oral insertion component. Generally, the electronic components (motor, user interface UI, display, battery etc.) are housed in the body, while the distal oral insertion component does not comprise electronic components, but rather components such as bristles, which wear and need to be replaced at intervals. For this reason, the oral insertion component is easily exchangeable and replaceable at a reasonable cost.

[0074] In this embodiment of detection and clearing apparatus 200, the device includes a proximal body portion 210 and a distal oral insertion portion 250. The distal oral insertion portion 250 includes a vibrating brush 252 with brush base 256 and bristles 254 and a distal probe tip 112. The active (electronic) components are incorporated within, or disposed externally on, the proximal body portion 210. More particularly, distal probe tip 112 is incorporated close to or within the bristles 254, while the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120, the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, and the sensor P, P2 are incorporated within, or disposed externally on, proximal body portion 210.

[0075] Connection between the body with the active parts and the distal oral insertion portion, is provided by a mechanical connection 230. Based on the pressure sensor signal, it is concluded if plaque is present at the area of the distal probe tip 112. In an embodiment, the active components comprise the pressure sensor P as described above. In conjunction with FIGS. 1-3, for example, the sensor P is used to measure the pressure of the flow of air stream 30. Such a sensor has the advantage that it is robust and simple to use. The sensor P is in electrical communication with detection electronics 220 that include a controller 225 that is in electrical communication therewith.

[0076] The active components enable a method of generating an air stream, such as an electrical or a mechanical pumping method, or other activation mechanism, whereby the mechanical method may comprise a spring component which is mechanically activated, e.g., wherein a plunger 126 is mechanically activated. In one embodiment, the method of generating the air stream is an electrical pumping principle, as this combines well with the pressure sensing component described above. In yet another embodiment, the passive components comprise only a tube with an opening at the end, such as distal probe portion 110 and distal probe tip 112. In still another embodiment, connection of the active and passive components is realized by a mechanical coupling 230 of the tube to the output of the pressure sensor. Such a coupling is ideally substantially pressure sealed. Pressure values are relatively low (« lbar).

[0077] In yet other embodiments, other methods for creating the flow of air stream 30 are possible. For example, the flow of air stream 30 could be created by a diaphragm pump, a piezoelectric pump, or a variety of other mechanisms.

[0078] In this embodiment of detection and clearing apparatus 200, the device includes a clearing component 146 that includes a liquid reservoir 125 containing or configured to contain a liquid 127 such as water, a cleaning fluid, or a variety of other liquids suitable for preventing and/or clearing a blockage 23. As described above, clearing component 146 can be located on and/or within any portion of apparatus 200. Clearing component 146 of apparatus 200 can include any of the components or elements described or envisioned herein, including a dispenser 140, gate 137, controller 1200, processor 1210, memory 1220, input module 1260, timer 1240, and/or alert mechanism 1250, among other elements. According to an embodiment, before, during, and/or after use of apparatus 200, the clearing component dispenses one or more liquid droplets 121 into air stream 30 in FIG. 13, which is introduced to distal probe portion 110, and out through the open port 136 to prevent and/or clear a blockage.

[0079] Detection and Clearing Methods

[0080] Referring to FIG. 14, a flow chart illustrating a method 1400 for detecting plaque on a dental surface in accordance with an embodiment of the invention is disclosed. In step 1410, a detection and clearing apparatus 200 is provided. Detection and clearing apparatus 200 may be any of the embodiments described herein or otherwise envisioned, and can include any of the components of the units described in conjunction with FIGS. 1 -13. For example, detection and clearing apparatus 200 can include a detection component 133 and a clearing component 146 according to any of the embodiments described herein or otherwise envisioned.

[0081] In step 1420, an air stream 30 is generated. For example, during operation of detection and clearing apparatus 200, a continuous fluid air stream can be supplied by a plunger 126 through the central pressure sensing portion tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112, for example, when the plunger moves longitudinally at a constant velocity and away from the proximal end 124'.

[0082] In step 1430, air stream 30 is passed through the distal probe tip 112 of a distal probe portion 110 of apparatus 200. Referring to FIGS. 9 and 10, for example, a continuous air stream is supplied through the plunger 126, such as via an aperture 128 in the plunger 126 or from a branch connection 122 connecting to the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 to the distal probe tip 112. As the plunger 126 moves towards distal end 124" of the proximal tubular syringe portion 124, the pressure inside the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 is measured using pressure meter P that is in fluid communication with the central pressure sensing tubular portion 120 and the distal probe portion 110. When the plunger 126 moves the pressure at pressure meter P versus time characterizes the flow of air stream 30 through the distal probe tip 112 of the probe 100. According to one embodiment, the distal probe tip 112 comprises an open port 136 of approximately 500 μιη or less.

[0083] In step 1440, the detection and clearing apparatus 200 detects plaque on the dental surface caused by the measurement of a signal 510 resulting from the plaque at least partially obstructing the passage of generated air stream 30 through distal probe tip 112.

[0084] According to an embodiment, at step 1480 of the method, the user or a timer selectively activates the generation and/or intermittent passing of liquid droplets 121. This can be achieved, for example, by a switch, a timer, or a variety of other activation mechanisms described or otherwise envisioned herein.

[0085] In step 1450 of the method, the clearing component 146 of the detection and clearing apparatus 200 generates a plurality of liquid droplets 121 from liquid reservoir 125, either automatically or in response to input from the activation mechanism of step 1480. The liquid droplets may be formed according to any of the embodiments described or envisioned herein, including but not limited to dispenser 140, gate 137, a pump, piston, inkjet mechanism, needle valve or port, and a variety of other methods. According to one embodiment, the volume of the plurality of liquid droplets can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size of the channel, open port 136, and/or the size or severity of a detected blockage. [0086] In step 1460 of the method, the clearing component 146 of the detection and clearing apparatus 200 intermittently or periodically passes one or more of the generated liquid droplets 121 to the distal probe tip 112. This can be a passive process that results from the general pressure exerted on the entire system, or can be an active process that results from a force generator such as a pump, piston, or variety of other mechanisms described or otherwise envisioned herein.

[0087] In step 1470 of the method, the detection component 133 of the detection and clearing apparatus 200 detects or is aware of the intermittent passage of the liquid droplets 121 from the liquid reservoir such that the intermittent passage is not measured as being caused by the presence of plaque. In other words, the temporary pressure increase resulting from liquid 125 temporarily blocking or impeding the flow of air stream 30 is not interpreted as the presence of plaque. This can be performed by informing the detection component 133 whenever a liquid droplet is dispensed, for example.

[0088] All definitions, as defined and used herein, should be understood to control over dictionary definitions, definitions in documents incorporated by reference, and/or ordinary meanings of the defined terms.

[0089] The indefinite articles "a" and "an," as used herein in the specification and in the claims, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, should be understood to mean "at least one."

[0090] The phrase "and/or," as used herein in the specification and in the claims, should be understood to mean "either or both" of the elements so conjoined, i.e., elements that are conjunctively present in some cases and disjunctively present in other cases. Multiple elements listed with "and/or" should be construed in the same fashion, i.e., "one or more" of the elements so conjoined. Other elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified by the "and/or" clause, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified.

[0091] As used herein in the specification and in the claims, "or" should be understood to have the same meaning as "and/or" as defined above. For example, when separating items in a list, "or" or "and/or" shall be interpreted as being inclusive, i.e., the inclusion of at least one, but also including more than one, of a number or list of elements, and, optionally, additional unlisted items. Only terms clearly indicated to the contrary, such as "only one of or "exactly one of," or, when used in the claims, "consisting of," will refer to the inclusion of exactly one element of a number or list of elements. In general, the term "or" as used herein shall only be interpreted as indicating exclusive alternatives (i.e. "one or the other but not both") when preceded by terms of exclusivity, such as "either," "one of," "only one of," or "exactly one of."

[0092] As used herein in the specification and in the claims, the phrase "at least one," in reference to a list of one or more elements, should be understood to mean at least one element selected from any one or more of the elements in the list of elements, but not necessarily including at least one of each and every element specifically listed within the list of elements and not excluding any combinations of elements in the list of elements. This definition also allows that elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified within the list of elements to which the phrase "at least one" refers, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified.

[0093] It should also be understood that, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, in any methods claimed herein that include more than one step or act, the order of the steps or acts of the method is not necessarily limited to the order in which the steps or acts of the method are recited.

Claims

Claims What is claimed is:
1. An apparatus (100, 200) for plaque detection on a dental surface, the apparatus comprising:
a detection component (133) configured to generate an air stream (30) and allow passage of the air stream through a distal probe tip (112) of a distal probe portion (110) of the apparatus, wherein passage of the air stream through the distal probe portion enables detection of plaque based on measurement of a signal (510) caused by the plaque at least partially obstructing passage of the generated air stream through the distal tip; and
a clearing component (146) comprising a liquid reservoir (125), the clearing component configured to generate at least one liquid droplet (121) from the liquid reservoir, and further configured to enable passage of the at least one liquid droplet through said distal tip, wherein said passage of said liquid droplets through said distal tip removes a blockage (23) of said distal tip.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the clearing component is further configured to enable intermittent passage of the at least one liquid droplet through said distal tip.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the detection component is configured to detect the passage of a liquid droplet from said liquid reservoir.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the clearing component is configured to generate the least one liquid droplet in response to an increase in the signal measured by the detection component.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising at least one activation mechanism (1270) configured to selectively activate the passage of the liquid droplet through the distal tip.
6. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the activation mechanism is configured to selectively activate the passage of the liquid droplet through the distal tip in response to an increase in DC pressure.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 , further comprising a timing mechanism (1240) configured to dispense a liquid droplet from said liquid reservoir.
8. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a controller (1200) configured to control the generation of the at least one liquid droplet from the liquid reservoir.
9. A method (1400) for detecting plaque on a dental surface, the method comprising the steps of:
detecting, by a detection component (133) of an apparatus (100, 200), the presence of plaque on a dental surface, comprising the steps of:
(i) generating (1420) an air stream (30);
(ii) passing (1430) said generated air stream through a distal probe tip (112) of a distal probe portion (110) of the apparatus toward a dental surface; and
(iii) detecting (1440) plaque on the dental surface based on measurement of a signal (510) caused by the plaque at least partially obstructing the passage of the generated air stream through the distal tip; and clearing, by a clearing component (146) of the apparatus, a blockage (23)of the distal tip, comprising the steps of:
(i) generating (1450) at least one liquid droplet (121) from a liquid reservoir (125) of the clearing component; and
(ii) passing (1460) the at least one liquid droplet through said distal tip.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the step of clearing a blockage of the distal tip further comprises intermittently passing (1460) the at least one generated liquid droplet through said distal tip.
11. The method of claim 9, wherein the step of detecting the presence of plaque further comprises the step of detecting (1470) the passage of a liquid droplet.
12. The method of claim 9, wherein said clearing step further comprises the step of selectively activating (1680) the passage of the liquid droplet through the distal tip.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein said selectively activating step is initiated in response to an increase in DC pressure.
14. The method of claim 12, wherein said selectively activating step is initiated in response to the detection of the presence of plaque by the detection component.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein said selectively activating step comprises timing the passage of liquid droplets through the distal tip.
PCT/IB2015/057060 2014-09-29 2015-09-15 Liquid droplet approach to clearing blockage of a plaque detection stream probe WO2016051301A1 (en)

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US6283719B1 (en) * 1998-11-05 2001-09-04 Frantz Medical Development Ltd Detecting obstructions in enteral/parenteral feeding tubes and automatic removal of clogs therefrom
WO2008001303A1 (en) * 2006-06-29 2008-01-03 Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. A surface detection system for use with a droplet spray oral cleaning device
US20100262078A1 (en) * 2009-03-31 2010-10-14 Smiths Medical Asd, Inc. Systems and methods to address air, leaks and occlusions in an insulin pump system
WO2014097031A1 (en) * 2012-12-21 2014-06-26 Koninklijke Philips N.V. Plaque detection using a stream probe
WO2015113872A1 (en) * 2014-01-30 2015-08-06 Koninklijke Philips N.V. Reducing blockages of a plaque detection stream probe

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