Cameras, Colors, and Cavities: How technology is shaping the future of cavity diagnosis.

Sep 28 2013

Cameras, Colors, and Cavities: How technology is shaping the future of cavity diagnosis.

Cameras, Colors, and Cavities: How technology is shaping the future of cavity diagnosis

Since tooth decay is a continual process that starts from a pre-cavity softening of the outer layer of a tooth (enamel demineralization) to a deep cavity involving the very core of a tooth (pulpal infection), dental scientists are constantly looking to better our abilities to diagnose decay earlier and more accurately. We have made significant strives forward in this arena and in fact, over the last decade, we’re starting to realize that the conventional diagnostic techniques using an explorer can further damage weakened enamel to the detriment of the patient.

Immunofluorescence technology is one of the more advanced techniques, where your doctor can use high-end technology to noninvasively distinguish staining versus actual bacteria that may be hidden in the deepest grooves of a molar. Its pretty common that a molar would have deep developmental grooves called fissures.

Dental Groove & Toothbrush Bristle

These fissures can stain by the pigments in our daily foods, or the same exact areas can and often due become a sanctuary for bacteria to grow in and start cavities. That is because the depth of these grooves are often unreachable even during a professional cleaning, hence, the colorful mystery of stains or cavities becomes a daily clinical decision for your dentist. Caries detection using immunofluoresence can be very useful in these cases.

Immunofluorescence Diagram

This technology uses LEDs to project a high-energy light at wavelength of 405nm towards the tooth. This specific wavelength stimulates one of the byproducts of cavity causing bacteria (called porphyrins) and the returning light has a red fluorescent color. Other bacteria or organic materials such as food coloring will easily be distinguishable from bacteria. Some of these smart cameras can even quantify the count of the bacteria and depth of their penetration into the tooth.

Ask your pediatric dentist if he or she has caries detection immunofluorescence technology as part of their diagnostic armamentarium.

Dr. J ShahangianDr J is a board certified pediatric dentist, serving his hometown in San Diego at one the most respected specialty practices, Scripps Pediatric Dentistry. He is an honors graduate of UC Berkeley, and UCLA School of Dentistry. His specialty training was completed as Chief Resident at UNC, one of only 2 three year pediatric programs in the US. He is an associate professor at UCLA in pediatric dentistry and on staff at Rady Children’s Hospital. He is also a proud father to two girls.

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