Top of Page
Skip main navigation

Identification of Volatile Organic Compounds Indicative of Periodontal Disease

Grant Winners

  • Katie Crump, Ph.D. – Halmos College of Oceanography and Natural Sciences
  • Jessica Brown, Ph.D. – Halmos College of Oceanography and Natural Sciences
  • Elizabeth Feldman – Halmos College of Oceanography and Natural Sciences
  • Sean Ide Bolet – Halmos College of Oceanography and Natural Sciences


  • Richard Dodge, Ph.D. – Halmos College of Oceanography and Natural Sciences


Award Winners Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis) is the sixth most prevalent chronic, inflammatory disease worldwide and has been implicated as a source for systemic inflammation associated with various disorders including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cancers [1-4]. Due to its link to systemic health, significant effort has emerged in diagnosing and treating oral diseases with the hope of alleviating greater underlying conditions. While novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of periodontitis are being developed due to a greater understanding of disease progression, early detection strategies are still in its infancy. Medical history, radiographic (x-ray) detection, and measuring gum pockets are current detection methods for clinicians [5]. For these detection methods, there must be a 2-3 millimeter change from tissue/bone destruction to identify a decline in periodontal health [6]. This change indicates active disease is already progressing before it is even detected by current methodologies [6]. Therefore, new advances in early diagnosis are needed to be able to identify periodontal decline before any destruction occurs, which will allow for the treatment of an individual’s oral health and thus can improve their systemic health. Bad breath in the form of “rotten egg smell” is one of the first signs of periodontal health issues. However, once the smell can be detected by the nose, tissue destruction has already started and late stage periodontal disease is likely. Therefore, the goal of our research is to identify malodors (volatile organic compounds-VOCs) as biomarkers for detection of early periodontal disease. Using saliva from individuals that are healthy and those that have early or late stage gum disease as assessed by a periodontist, we will capture the odors on a fiber (referred to as SPME) which can then be identified and measured from each stage of the disease using gas-chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS). This chemical instrumentation allows reliable odor identification and quantification. At the conclusion of this project, we will have identified the specific VOCs and their quantity associated with healthy, early, and late stage gum disease. This research could ultimately help in identifying new biomarkers associated with declining periodontal health leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Return to top of page