Although laser and LED fiber optic caries detection devices have been available for several years, they are not used in dental practices as much as they should be. These caries detection technologies are also the standard of care for diagnosing the presence or absence of decay in today’s dental practice. The technologies of digital radiography and intraoral cameras both enhance the ability to detect possible decay or caries. Laser or LED caries detection will provide a more definitive answer in greater than 90% of cases.The sooner there is a confirmed diagnosis of caries, the more conservative the treatment required. Also, if decalcification of natural tooth structure is diagnosed before decay begins, the most conservative treatment of all can be initiated: prevention or remineralization. Dentists agonize over whether to open up a suspicious tooth, not open it, or just “watch it.” If a tooth is opened up and no decay is present, that tooth was treated unnecessarily. Making diagnostic “guesses” is not in any patient’s best interest. While a dentist “watches” a tooth, most likely it will progress to decay until examined 6 months later. By that time minimally invasive dentistry will probably not be an option. If dentists truly are going to be as conservative as possible and practice minimally invasive dentistry, they must be diagnostically correct more than 90% of the time and as early as possible. Today’s digital caries detection technology can remove the doubt from treatment decisions, whether restorative or preventive, with respect to hidden caries, questionable stained grooves, or any other suspicious-looking tooth surface.
Newer to dentistry is the Midwest Caries I.D.™ caries detection handpiece . This LED and fiber optic technology aids in the detection of caries in pits and fissures and interproximal areas of posterior molars and premolars that have not been restored. It can be used in both a wet and dry environment. Because light reflects off an altered enamel prism, when this handpiece light penetrates natural tooth structure (up to 3 mm), it detects changes in the enamel. If no caries is detected, a green light will appear on the handpiece. If caries is present, a red light, as well as a beeping sound, will indicate that result. The Midwest Caries I.D. is 92% effective in detecting occlusal decay and 80% effective in detecting interproximal decay in unrestored molar teeth. Again, if the dentist suspects possible enamel decalcification or the presence of dental caries, it is possible to take the guesswork out of the process by using this digital technology for a more definitive diagnosis.