One of the surest ways to avoid the harmful effects of tooth decay is to maintain good oral hygiene habits. Another way is to detect cavities early and nip them in the bud before they progress into full-blown health problems like abscesses, tooth loss, and even nerve damage. While most cavities can be treated easily with fillings, the process of filling a tooth weakens the tooth, making it prone to fractures, and sometimes, infection. The bigger the cavity, the more damage is done to the tooth structure. By detecting cavities early, when they are smaller and less complicated to treat, tooth integrity can be preserved and dental disasters can be averted.
Once upon a time, patients had to rely solely on a dentist’s manual examination, x-rays, or on their own subjective symptoms, to ascertain the presence of cavities; however, not all cavities are discernible by the human eye and in the early stages, not all cavities produce noticeable symptoms. Also, by the time cavities show up on x-rays, the decay has already progressed to a considerable portion of the tooth.
Nowadays, FDA-approved laser technology is the cutting edge of cavity detection. A laser light is beamed onto the teeth and areas of the teeth where decay is present show fluorescence (glow brightly). The laser detector also produces an audible signal when passed over suspicious areas. Additionally, these devices register a number on a scale which gives an idea of whether the area requires immediate treatment or is simply a vulnerable area that should be actively monitored.
Lasers detectors have a 90 percent accuracy rate at detecting cavities. These instruments expose pin prick-sized cavities that are just starting to form, i.e., cavities that require only a small filling. Small fillings mean less damage to the tooth structure, and they also reduce the risk of complications like abscesses, fracturing, and tooth loss further down the road, complications that can be quite expensive to treat. Laser cavity detection also aids in cavity prevention since it exposes vulnerable areas that can be treated with fluoride therapy or dental sealants before cavities form.
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