Why Do We Need Laser Detection?
Until fairly recently, the method most dental health professionals used to detect dental decay consisted primarily of probing the teeth with specialized tools, and periodically taking X-rays. However, when decay enters microscopic fractures in the enamel of the tooth, it can spread to the softer dentin beneath the enamel. This kind of caries usually go undetected until they have reached significant stages of decay, because they are encased in relatively hard enamel. From the outside, the teeth appear to be fine, but by the time this type of decay is detected through conventional methods, it’s common for a quarter or even a third of the tooth to have been negatively impacted. Thus, better detection methods are needed.
What Is Laser Detection?
Laser cavity detection works on the premise that light (fluorescence) penetrates healthy tooth structures, which will then result in a low light reading on the display element of the laser. When the beam of light hits decayed areas of tooth structure, the light will be reflected, and the fluorescence reading will be elevated.
In order to perform laser cavity detection, your family dentist shines a laser beam from an instrument that looks like a small pen-shaped wand, onto the chewing surfaces of the teeth. It is a completely painless procedure. An audio signal alerts the dental health professional to changes in the quality of the tooth structures, and this directs the focus of the exam more closely on areas that indicate a potential problem.
How Effective Is Laser Detection?
The use of laser instruments has consistently proven to be a highly accurate method for detecting occlusal dentinal decay, particularly in the molars. In some cases, using laser cavity detection has increased the accuracy rate of dental cary detection from ~56% to ~90%!
Early cavity detection translates to less invasive fillings and better enamel integrity. In some cases, early detection of pre-cavity stages of dental degradation enables the process of cavitation to be arrested, or even reversed! Laser detection is also a superior method for early detection because, if areas of pre-cavitation are discovered in a stage that allows the process to be reversed, the laser leaves the tooth enamel intact, whereas probing tools can fracture the compromised surface layer, which eliminates the chance of reversing the cavitation.