A new technology at the dental office can detect tooth decay before you can even see it. In this edition of Healthy Living, YNN's Katie Gibas explains the process.
If you've ever had a cavity, you know how painful it can be.
"I've had several cavities, especially growing up when I was younger. And it was kind of a nightmare, so I avoided the dentist for a while," said Aaron Toomath, a dental patient.
To find cavities, dentists use the naked eye and a tool to touch the tooth and judge whether it's decayed or not, based on how sticky it feels.
"The way a cavity enters the tooth is usually they break through the top surface through a small pinpoint hole and eat from the inside out. So by the time you see a hole in your tooth, it is a significant problem. It's beyond a simple repair," explained Justin Zalatan, a dentist.
Zalatan also says by the time a cavity shows up on an x-ray, there could already be significant damage. However, now a new technology is detecting cavities before you can even see them. It is called the Spectra Caries Detection Aid.
The technology allows the dentist to zoom in on an individual tooth. They shine a light on the tooth, and it emits back different colors and numbers, showing the seriousness, size, and location of the tooth decay.
Zalatan explained, "What this technology allows us to do is scan those small little holes, if you will, or stains or grooves and let us know has that cavity actually penetrated through and how much has it penetrated. When there's a small spot on the tooth, we can scan it, and say 'hey, this should be treated. We can treat it without anesthesia even. It's very tiny now.' Why are you going to wait for it to be a big hole?"
In Toomath's case, the technology prevented him from needing a root canal.
He said, "This was actually very pleasant. I think the cleaning was more aggressive than actually doing the fillings."
"We're just eliminating the actual diseased tissue, instead of physically removing it with a drill, we're using a laser. And that light energy kills the bacteria without physically removing all the tooth structure," said Zalatan.
The technology has been in use for just over a year, but Zalatan said he wouldn't be surprised if it becomes the standard for the industry.