Spectra Reveals Previously Undetected Decay

The way dentists have always looked for
decay has been to run a very small metal instrument, known as the "explorer", over the tooth to feel for a hole or "stick". Billions of teeth have been saved by the diligent use of the explorer and X-rays to detect decay.

However, despite their best efforts, dentists sometimes can’t find the tiny surface hole that is just big enough for bacteria to enter through the enamel to create decay on the inside. The tooth decays internally without any evidence on the surface for the dentist to detect. Fluoride, which strengthens enamel against decay, oddly enough, has compounded the problem. Before fluoride, the bacterial action left some evidence of enamel breakdown on the surface of the tooth, which was helpful in diagnosing decay early. Now, because the enamel is strengthened, this early warning is missing, and the bacteria sneak inside through a hole that is too small for an explorer to detect. X-rays may also fail to reveal this decay until it gets fairly large.

Dentistry is just now able to look at a generation of people who grew up with fluoride and we are now able to understand this unexpected phenomenon. Fortunately, science has come to the rescue.

By using the Spectra, which is a fluorescent light which causes cavity causing bacteria to fluoresce red and healthy enamel green, we are now able to detect early decay through the grooves and cracks of teeth with extreme accuracy. The Spectra displays a graphical image to show how deep the cavity is in your tooth.

It is important to detect decay as early as possible. The smaller the cavity, the smaller the repair. With the advent of new materials that recreate tooth structure and “micro-dentistry,” we are able to preserve more of your natural tooth.

Although the Spectra will not replace traditional methods of diagnosis completely, it will help tremendously in avoiding the repair of big cavities and some root canals by catching them early. Dr. Faubl believes this incredible new technology will become standard in dental offices in the future.