Dental Tips Blog


How Are Cavities Detected?

Posted in Fillings

Cavity detention is a unique combination of technology coupled with the observation skills of a highly trained and experienced dentist.  In most cases the dentist will use a combination of techniques and not rely completely on the technology or observation.

Technology based methods include various types of x-rays, cavity detecting dye, and various laser fluorescence cavity detection aids.  X-Rays are able to detect decay on both the enamel of the tooth, as well as the deeper dentin.  Advancements in x-ray technology include digital x-rays, 3D x-rays as well as panoramic x-rays.  Cavity detecting dye works because it bonds to decay, while it washes off of healthy teeth.

The presence of the dye in specific areas of a tooth, identify areas of probable decay, requiring closer examination by the dentist.   Laser cavity detection works by measuring changes to the tooth surface caused by decay.  This technology allows the detection of cavities, before they are visible to other means of cavity detection.

Observation relies of the dentist poking around it the patient’s mouth with a variety of tools including the dental explorer and a mirror.  During the exam, the dentist will be able to detect decay visually due to a slight discoloration of the tooth, if decay is present.  In addition, the dentist will use the explorer, which is like a hooked pick, to probe the patient’s teeth for decay.  In general, the tip of the explorer will be able to penetrate the decay slightly.

The advancements in technology, as well as the observation techniques of a experienced dentist, has made it possible to detect tooth decay earlier than ever, making treatment less painful and less expensive for the patient!

Posted on behalf of Dan Myers


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