Early Diagnosis of Tooth Decay


In most people tooth decay is obvious but at times it is possible that you have pain in tooth but cannot see the cavity, or can see just a dark spot on your tooth. Your dentist can diagnose early changes in your teeth before a cavity develops.

How does a dentist find early changes in your teeth that can cause cavities?

This is done by

X-ray of your teeth and jaws or
Examination of your teeth with an explorer (a metal tool that has a pointed end).
Some dentists use newer technologies. Are these devices really better than the experienced dentist an explorer and an X-ray?

Newer Techniques to diagnose Tooth Decay Early include

Digital Imaging Fiber-Optic Trans-Illumination (DIFOTI): This technology uses computers to make images of a tooth while a light is shined behind it. Teeth with demineralized areas (early caries) seem darker than healthy areas. This helps a dentist to find tooth with problems. The method does not use radiation. As the images are interpreted by a dentist, there can be difference of opinion.
Digital Imaging DIAGNOdent: This technology uses laser to collect information. A hand held laser probe used and is shined on each tooth. Healthy teeth emit very little fluorescent light, but damaged area in a tooth and bacteria emit more light. The device is supposed to have 90% accuracy. It can show early caries before a cavity develops in the outer, visible layer (enamel). It ca be used to follow a suspicious tooth or teeth over time.
Quantitative Light-Induced Fluorescence (QLF): QLF is the newest technology. A light source, camera, fluorescent dye and computer software are used in QLF. The camera makes the images of a tooth, and the software evaluates each image and tells about possible mineral loss.

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