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Early Decay Detection DIAGNOdent

by Linda McGuire RDH

DrBentz294x319The ability to detect cavities in the mouth as early as possible is of the utmost importance.  Many dentists will use the “pick and stick” method to check for cavities.  They use an explorer to pick at your teeth to see if the surface of the tooth is hard or if the explorer sticks in the grooves of the tooth. Unfortunately this method is not always effective.   Just because a brown spot in your tooth does not “stick” when examined, does not mean there is not decay in your tooth.  When decay goes undetected in your mouth, there is a risk of more extensive damage to the tooth.  In addition, x-rays can detect severe/advanced decay or decay in between the teeth, but may still miss areas of decay inside the tooth.  By the time you can see decay on an x-ray, it is pretty severe.  Early detection and treatment is so important.  Research has shown that decay can go undetected in our mouths as early as age 6 years old.  This is why, in our office, we use DIAGNOdent in addition to x-rays and visual examination.  DIAGNOdent is an advanced dental technology that allows us to detect decay deep inside the tooth, not just outside on the top.

Did you know that our back teeth grow with natural grooves and “cavities?” This is why most of us have had fillings in majority of our back teeth as children or young adults.  The reason for this is that the enamel in our back teeth is not flat and solid like the enamel on our front teeth. Back teeth are very susceptible to decay, more so than any of our front teeth.  There is a very strong likelihood that decay is growing deep inside our back teeth through microscopic fissures in them.  The concept is similar to a nail hole in a roof.  That very small hole can cause a lot of damage to the wood underneath your shingles over time.  You may not figure it out until you start seeing brown spots on your ceiling.  By this time it’s too late and has caused extensive and expensive damage to your home’s structure.  The dentin layer of the tooth is similar to wood or drywall that can rot when it becomes wet, or with dentin, when bacteria grows inside the tooth.  This is why it is so important to detect the decay early, so we can fix the problem before the decay has spread to most of your tooth structure.

Sometimes dentists can be “afraid” or apprehensive to tell people that they have cavities, so they just “watch” the tooth. But, by the time they decide to fill the cavity, it’s grown much larger and damaged much more of your tooth’s structure.  We feel that is important to be up front and honest with our patients and explain in detail to them when we find decay, no matter how small it is.  No one wants to hear that they have cavities, but it is our responsibility as professionals to make sure you understand everything that is going on in your mouth.  We take photos, perform laser readings, and do a very thorough visual examination using microscopes when doing a dental exam in our office.

Unfortunately, once there is decay in the tooth, it doesn’t just go away or stay small.  If left alone, it can grow into the nerve of the tooth causing the need for a root canal or worse.  So, why not fill it when it’s small instead of waiting until it has caused extensive damage to your tooth structure?  When you get it filled while the cavity is still small, the treatment is much easier and less invasive on you.  Root canals/dental emergencies are not a fun experience, so a simple filling to prevent this much more invasive procedure is very important for the long term health of your teeth.  This is why we believe we should not just “watch” a tooth and wait until the decay is large, but instead, remove the decay early and replace it with a tooth colored filling.  This ensures we save as much of your tooth structure as possible and work to prevent root canal type situations.

For more information, please contact us.

To read more about DIAGNOdent, please click here.


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