By drglasmeier@nashvillefirstimpressions.net
February 01, 2010
Category: Uncategorized

Question: How are cavities detected by a dentist?

Answer: There are multiple ways a dentist can screen for and detect cavities or tooth decay:

 

1. Visual- The dentist looks for unusual discolorations, stains and dark spots found along different surfaces of the tooth. The most obvious occur along the biting surfaces of the teeth and are found more commonly on the molars.

 

2. Feel- The dentist uses an instrument called an "explorer" trying to feel for "stickiness" or catches along the surface of the tooth. The stickiness is often found along the grooves and fissures of the tooth and represents an area where the enamel coating of the tooth has been compromised.

 

3. Xrays- Digital xrays allow a dentist to see cavities not only along the biting surfaces but the flossing surfaces between the teeth. Not only do xrays provide insight to the presence or absence of a cavity, but it can convey the extent or depth of the cavity. A dentist can use xrays to determine how deep the cavity is and if there is nerve involvement.

 

4. Laser- Using a device called a "Diagnodent", a dentist can use a special laser that measure the damage that is left behind as a result of cavity or tooth decay. While this is not a primary means of detection, it will typically reinforce the presence of absence of a cavity if there is suspicion.

 

So the next question is, if there are multiple ways a cavity can be detected, what is the best way?

 

While there are many ways to detect tooth decay, one way is not more advantageous than the other. Simply put, the dentist should use as many ways as possible to help assess. All four ways can give the dentist tremendous insight into cavity assessment and provide the patient confidence that nothing was missed during an exam!

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