Early Decay Detection – and No Ionizing Radiation

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Oral Health

dentist checking patient's teethAs we’ve said before – and as a recent study in the CDA Journal emphasizes – maintaining good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly are more important than ever in the age of COVID.

Why the dental visits? For one, professional cleanings are an important adjunct to your home care, removing any tartar build-up and plaque you might have missed at home, as well as cleaning areas that are hard to reach with a standard brush and floss.

“Oral hygiene interventions, periodontal and dental treatment,” note the authors of the CDA Journal study,

have the potential to decrease the oral bacterial burden and the systemic inflammatory response. Thus, it is essential to treat periodontitis and promote good plaque control for general health and decrease the risk of COVID-19 problems.

Just as important as those cleanings are regular exams, so we can catch problems like decay and gum disease early, when they’re easier (and less expensive) to treat in minimally invasive ways. When decay is caught early, for instance, nutritional changes and ramped up hygiene may be enough in some cases to support natural remineralization, no drill-and-fill required.

If the decay has gone deeper, into the softer tissues below the enamel, though, a filling or crown will be needed.

This is why we use special tools that can detect caries (decay) in its earliest stages – without exposing you to any ionizing radiation. Our ORTEK-ECD device, for instance, measures the conductivity of dental enamel, helping us spot places where tooth enamel has become vulnerable. The ECD registers a caries score that gives us an idea of how extensive the decay is.

Another device is CariVu. While many similar devices rely on fluorescence – which uses special light to distinguish healthy and decayed tooth tissue – CariVu uses transillumination. It makes enamel look transparent, while lesions absorb the light and appear dark – just like in an x-ray. Check it out:

One study published last year compared a transilluminating device with a fluorescing one made by the same company, testing how well each did in detecting early caries on the biting surface of teeth. The transilluminating device “was found to be the most effective method for the diagnosis of occlusal caries without cavitation in permanent molar teeth,” with an accuracy rate of over 90%.

Another study found that devices like CariVu were just as accurate in detecting caries between teeth as the bitewing x-rays typically used to identify them. Yet another found that transilluminating devices could be even more accurate than x-rays, at least when it comes to adult teeth. (Its authors got a high number of false negatives in some primary – baby – teeth.)

And these are just some of the advanced tools we use to provide our patients with the best customized care we can provide, treating symptoms rather than causes and using the least invasive methods possible for supporting oral and whole body health alike. You can learn more about other advanced technology we use in the services we provide starting here.

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