Uncovered: Doppler Dentistry Helps Detect Cavities Early

Results of one tooth

Nicole Ebat

OMAHA(KPTM)--{} Dentists are starting to use new technology that helps detect cavities before they become a big problem - and a big pain.

It's called fluorescence visualization.

Dr. Ralph Corpuz at the Corpuz Family Dentistry{}office in Omaha specifically uses the Spectra. He{}started using the technology to give patients a better view of their own teeth.

"It's like a camera that projects a blue light onto the tooth and what happens is the bacteria in the cavity absorbs that light and reflects it back so what we get is a Doppler radar image kind of like on [a] weather forecast," said Corpuz.

It doesn't take long for the camera to snap a few pictures.

About a minute after it begins, the patient can take a look at the results with his or her own eyes.

What pops up on the screen is an enlarged, colored outline of the tooth with some splotches of color. If the patient has been taking good care of their teeth, it will be primarily green or blue. Patches of red indicate a cavity.

"Red is an area where there's an area of decay," said Corpuz. "Red is bad and green is good and blue is okay too."

Any areas of decay also have small numbers next to them indicating just how deep the cavity actually is. It allows dentists to keep an eye on cavities even in their earliest stages. If the cavity is shallow enough, most of the time the doctor can take care of it without anesthetic.

"A lot of our patients love it that they can leave here without having to get numbed up and not have that big fat lip feeling," said Corpuz.

It also lets him keep a close eye on each pearly white over time to see if any spots of decay are getting worse.

"It catches cavities early, obviously one of our goals is to catch cavities before they actually happen and if we get it caught early enough we can prescribe fluoride or have them brush better," said Corpuz.

The traditional way of searching for cavities is with a tool called an explorer. Chances are you've had{}{}the pokey, curved tool used at the dentist's office. That type of searching relies on the dentist's expertise to judge how soft a spot is on the tooth. Corpuz said the Spectra improves on that method.

"[This is] an objective test, is there a cavity or isn't there a cavity? It tells us point black that if we see red or yellow that there is an area of decay and where it is on the tooth,"{}he said.{}

Because it gives an exact area where the cavity is located, the dentist can put in as small a filling as possible. Corpuz said that helps the filling last longer.

Plus, when patients have the full-colored truth right in front of them, it helps them understand what areas of the mouth need more attention.

"If we didn't have this we might not believe them or say 'well, I don't have any pain so it's not really there and they're just saying that'," said Jessica Meyers, one of Corpuz's patients. "I think it's nice that it's there for us to see."

You can contact your dentist to see if they offer Fluorescence Visualization at all.

Dr. Corpuz doesn't charge patients anything extra to use the device during an exam.