Popular Honors Thesis Projects: Detecting Early Cavaties

Valeria Lomeli is a senior health sciences and public health major whose thesis was titled, “Factors Influencing the Use of the Canary System to Detect Early Carious Lesions.”

The first student from the Dental Early Acceptance Program to submit a thesis, Lomeli was first motivated to complete a thesis because of a strong interest in dentistry. She also believed conducting research at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA) would help her transition easily from undergraduate studies to dental school.

She explains that the purpose of her study was to determine if factors such as moisture, plaque and stains influenced the amount of oral lesions as indicated by the Canary System.

The Canary System is a machine that uses a fluorescent laser light to scan teeth for early caries (cavities or tooth decay). Her research centered on detecting demineralization on smooth surfaces of canine and molar teeth. She explains that, as the light from the Canary System is emitted from an optical tip and propagated into the tooth tissue, it causes the tooth to glow and release heat. These indicators then allow the viewer to see the degree and amount of tooth demineralization.

Beginning in the summer after completing her freshman year, Loreli did not finish her research until December of her third year– a solid year and a half of research. For Lomeli, the most difficult aspect of her thesis research was the time sensitive studies she was performing. Luckily, she had help from her thesis advisor, Dr. Bennett Amaechi, and her readers, Dr. Ann Eisenberg and Dr. Juanita Lozano-Pineda, as well as lab supervisor Renzo Ccahuana Vasquez.

Loreli believes that dental patients will benefit from the research of her thesis. “With constant dental renovations, we can expect to see systems like the Canary System be used in the future to detect early carious lesions to prevent invasive procedures.”