One of a dentist’s primary concerns is tooth decay, and for good reason—according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, over 90 percent of adults have had at least one cavity in a permanent tooth. Cavities result from harmful bacteria growing on your teeth. When you eat sticky, sweet, or acidic foods, this creates a hospitable environment for bacteria and plaque forms on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that wear away at your tooth, creating caries. Unfortunately, signs of small areas of decay can be very difficult to diagnose, giving the bacteria more and more time to damage your teeth. Decay can spread through your outermost enamel to internal dentin or even the pulp of your tooth, where its nerves are, becoming increasingly painful and costly.
At our Holland, PA practice, Dr. Gary Nack is invested in preventive dental care so our patients can save time and money while benefitting from a healthy mouth. As such, we use a state-of-the-art cavity detection tool called DIAGNOdent, to look for cavities, so Dr. Nack can treat them early on.
How Does DIAGNOdent Work?
DIAGNOdent is a small digital monitor attached to a wand. It is slowly moved over your teeth, checking all of them for cavities. It does so by sending a specific wavelength (655 nanometers, to be exact) of light at your teeth. If the light bounces back and makes your tooth temporarily fluorescent, this is a sign of bacteria and potential decay. The tool also displays a number and transmits an audio signal so that Dr. Nack can assess your teeth with even greater accuracy.
Benefits of DIAGNOdent
DIAGNOdent offers many advantages over traditional caries detection methods. Unfortunately, cavities often only become visible as darker spots in the later stages of decay, when the tooth will need to be filled or potentially even removed. Visual diagnosis can also be unreliable; teeth might have natural grooves or stains that appear to be caries, but are not, causing the patient to endure unnecessary treatment. In addition, using fluoride to prevent cavities causes many patients’ enamel to become thicker, which makes decay-causing bacteria and caries even more difficult to detect. Given these obstacles, a study at Berne University in Switzerland found that visual inspection is only 57 percent accurate when it comes to finding cavities.
To improve upon visual exams, many dentists use uncomfortable probes to scrape teeth and look for weak spots or, in extreme cases, “excavate” the tooth, opening it up just to look for decay within. An x-ray can also look for cavities, but many patients would rather not expose themselves to radiation if possible.
DIAGNOdent is more precise and more convenient than these caries detection methods. By simply moving the wand around your mouth for a few minutes, Dr. Nack can find otherwise invisible cavities with more than 90 percent accuracy. In fact, DIAGNOdent is so precise that it can often spot warning signs of incipient cavities, like small lesions, minor changes in enamel, and demineralization. If your tooth is at risk for a cavity, Dr. Nack can recommend changes to your dental hygiene and diet to help keep decay at bay. DIAGNOdent’s quantified cavity measurements also allow Dr. Nack to track the progress of your teeth over time for more appropriate diagnosis and treatment.