Tooth enamel yields clues about radiation exposure

A device developed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire uses tooth enamel to test radiation levels, according to a story by WMUR TV.

Harold Swartz, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and medicine at the center, developed the electron paramagnetic resonance dosimeter, which checks tooth enamel for radiation levels. Patients bite down on a mouthpiece and rest their heads against padding.

Changes in tooth enamel caused by radiation are permanent, allowing measurements to be taken at any time after the exposure, according to researcher Ben Williams, PhD.

The device is still in the research stage, but a copy of it is in Japan now, according to the story. The most current version weighs 60 lb, while an older model weighs more than a ton. A copy of the larger one has been in Japan for a couple of years but would need to gain regulatory approval before it could be used to check radiation levels in victims of the recent earthquake and nuclear reactor disaster, WMUR reported.

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