Laser Cavity Detection
Keeping A Healthy Smile
Laser Can Find Cavities Early
BOSTON, Updated 6:47 p.m. EDT September 19, 2000 -- Dentists are using a new technology that can detect a weakness in a tooth before it becomes a cavity. That could mean no more Novocain shots and no more drills.
The device is a compact diode laser used to identify areas of tooth decay that traditional means, including X-rays, miss.
Diagnodent shines a laser beam down into the tooth, to a depth of 2.5 mm.
The device is aimed into the grooves of teeth, providing a decay
reading to the dentist.
Diagnodent is used by Dr. Michael McKinney.
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NewsCenter 5's Heather Kahn reports that Diagnodent is a new laser which finds hard-to-spot areas of tooth decay.
"It puts out a laser beam down into the tooth, and that light reflects back towards the laser," Dr. Tom Orent of the Center for Esthetic Dentistry said. "If there's decay, there's a change in the wavelength. You get a reading from zero to 100 and are able to tell not only where the decay is, but how deep it is, how much decay there is."
Orent said that regular dental exams and X-rays can miss as much as three-quarters of decay. One Swiss study showed that dental exams using a pick detected 57 percent of problems, while Diagnodent caught 90 percent of decay.
"Certainly we'll see decay if it's large, but it's too late," Orent said. "At that point, you're looking at a very difficult restoration, a large filling or in some cases even root canal."
By catching the decay early, dentists have a number of tools that can get rid of it, without Novocain or drilling. Other dentists say that more research is needed before Diagnodent is used in most dental offices, but they do agree that the technique is an exciting adjunct to X-rays and examination.
"The thing I like about it and is promising is that it is not invasive," Dr. Fred Boustany of Boston Dental said. "It provides object measurement of the decay inside the tooth."
That's good enough to keep patient Rosemary Casey smiling.
"I think it's great, because you want to keep your teeth as long as you can," Casey said.
Diagnodent is FDA-approved.