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Periodontal disease is manifested clinically by a degradation of the ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. The most widely used diagnostic tool for assessment of periodontal diseases, measurement of periodontal attachment loss with a manual probe, may overestimate attachment loss by as much as 2 mm in untreated sites, while underestimating attachment loss by an even greater margin following treatment. Manual probing is also invasive, which causes patient discomfort. This work describes the development and testing of an ultrasonographic periodontal probe designed to replace manual probing. It uses a thin stream of water to project an ultrasonic beam into the periodontal pocket, and then measures echoes off features within the pocket. To do so, the ultrasonic beam must be narrowed from 2 (the diameter of the transducer) to 0.5 mm (the approximate width of the periodontal pocket at the gingival margin). The proper choice of transducer frequency, the proper method for controlling water flow from the probe, and a model for interpreting these echoes are also addressed. Initial results indicate that the device measures echoes from the hard tissue of the tooth surface, and that the periodontal attachment level can be inferred from these echoes. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.