Laser technology is an exciting development in various areas of health care, and in fact it’s becoming almost commonplace – one of the most interesting new ways of using laser technology is in the detection of tooth decay. It really is true – using a small device, it’s now possible to identify tooth decay that isn’t visible to the naked eye, which would go undiagnosed if only conventional methods were used.
Traditional methods of ferreting out tooth decay can also be improved and made more accurate when your dentist uses laser technology. Some of the advantages are:
- Significantly improved early cavity identification
- Fewer and smaller fillings needed, resulting in less money spent on dental treatment.
- Reduction in unnecessary examination of teeth that are merely suspected of having cavities.
How It Works
With non-invasive laser technology, your teeth are scanned – the entire structure of your tooth is examined. Because a healthy tooth will fluoresce (reflect light) differently than an unhealthy (decayed) tooth, cavities are easily detected. Healthy teeth will hardly fluoresce at all, whereas decayed teeth will display significant fluorescence. And obviously, the more the teeth fluoresce, the more decayed they are. When the scanning has been completed, the fluorescence is converted into a numeric value. Tooth decay can even be “heard,” because the increased fluorescence and high numeric value are represented in a steadily rising audio signal, denoting the level of decay.
Why does this matter?
It matters because our improved oral hygiene actually makes it harder to identify tooth decay. We use fluoridated toothpaste, and we drink fluoridated water. Of course this protects our teeth by hardening the enamel, but the harder enamel can actually make it harder to see decay using traditional x-rays, and teeth that are actually beginning to decay may appear to be perfectly healthy.
Before laser scanning, dentists had to rely entirely on fine picks and x-rays to find cavities, and sometimes it was hit and miss. Now, using laser technology, we can find decay earlier, and get to it before the tooth loses too much structure. This means stronger teeth, nowhere near as much time spent sitting in the chair, and even financial savings.
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