From Science Fiction to the Dental Chair: How Earlier Decay Detection Is Possible With Laser Analysis

Your young kids probably never would have guessed that a lightsaber can detect cavities, but that just might be the very thing that they tell you after their next date with the dentist's chair. Laser technology has been implemented in a host of medical diagnostic and treatment procedures, and now dentists are putting down the pointy metal explorer probes and incorporating lasers as part of their oral examinations. Find out more about this advanced alternative in decay detection.

Playing Laser Tag to Assess Each Tooth

Harder tooth enamel that has resulted from frequent exposure to fluoride in dental care products and in drinking water has forced tooth decay to creep into smaller weak spots and infiltrate the soft tissues within the tooth. This can pose a greater challenge in detecting tooth decay through the traditional process of probing each tooth with a manual explorer tool that cannot probe into the teeth.

For a deeper look, dentists employ a handheld wand-like device that emits wavelengths of a red diode laser onto each tooth. If tooth decay is present, it fluoresces. Once the extent of decay and the density of the tooth are evaluated, the results are transmitted to a display screen, providing the information that your dentist needs to determine the best course of action for preserving your teeth.

The Benefits of Laser Probing

The are advantages of using a laser to assess your teeth include the following:

  • No discomfort, which is ideal for fidgety young patients and for those who are sensitive to the feel of a metal instrument poking and prodding around their teeth and gums
  • Earlier detection of tooth decay, leading to earlier repairs to teeth when decay is less extensive, which can mean easier procedures and reduced dental care costs

The Dark Side of Laser Probing

As with many things in life, there are also some disadvantages of relying on a diode laser to diagnose tooth decay. Some cons of the laser include the following:

  • Inability of the laser to detect new decay where a previously filled cavity now occupies
  • Inability to reveal decay beyond the chewing surface of each tooth

These disadvantages require that diode laser probing should be used in conjunction with dental radiographs to provide the entire picture of each tooth's condition.

By conducting a dental examination in which radiographs and a diode laser probe complement one another, the findings provide dentists with the information that they need to assess tooth decay in its early stages when repairing the damage can achieve the most successful outcome for better longterm oral health. Learn more about your options by consulting local clinics like West Gate Dental.