Help is on the way!

In dentistry, we have been diagnosing decay using what is essentially a sharp stick. Our latest high-tech diagnostic device was a photographic X-ray, which was introduced to the profession just over 100 years ago. Isn`t it time we updated our diagnostic tools? Help is on the way as three new high-tech diagnostic devices have been introduced during the last few years.

Larry Emmott, DDS

In dentistry, we have been diagnosing decay using what is essentially a sharp stick. Our latest high-tech diagnostic device was a photographic X-ray, which was introduced to the profession just over 100 years ago. Isn`t it time we updated our diagnostic tools? Help is on the way as three new high-tech diagnostic devices have been introduced during the last few years.

The first is, of course, digital radiography. This system replaces the traditional film pack with a special sensor that detects radiation and transmits the information to a computer. The software then displays the images - which look like a traditional black-and-white X-ray film - on the computer screen.

While digital X-rays have been around for a while, what is new and truly amazing is the introduction of diagnostic software. A digital radiograph actually contains much more data than a conventional photographic X-ray - we just can`t see or interpret it with our eyes. Diagnostic software uses cross-linked databases and clinical studies relating back to digital radiographs to develop diagnostic software criteria. It is clinically based and is not a mere enhancement tool. In the future, digital images will be analyzed by diagnostic software programmed to search for caries, periodontal bone destruction, and even bony lesions.

The first of these advanced programs is Logicon, which analyzes digital radiographs and detects interproximal decay. The program tracks the progress of decay and gives a probability of decay into either the enamel or dentin. It can also store information for future comparisons. Future plans call for the program to detect recurrent decay and occlusal decay. For more information, call (800) 234-4732 ext. 447, or visit www.logicon.com/ cariesdetector.

The next new diagnostic tool is even more amazing. We all know that dental radiographs emit low amounts of radiation; however, our patients think of them as "slow death." With the new Difoti (digital imaging fiber-optic transillumination) system, you can now detect interproximal decay without X-rays.

The Difoti system was introduced at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. The system combines three technologies - high-intensity lights, intraoral cameras, and computers. It uses a handpiece, which looks very much like an intraoral camera. A very high-intensity light is shone through the tooth and the transilluminated shadow or image of the tooth is captured on a CCD intraoral camera. This image is then analyzed by computer software and displayed on a computer screen for diagnosis.

Difoti has received FDA clearance as a diagnostic tool. University research demonstrates that Difoti images can indicate the presence of early decay before either film or digital radiography. The diagnostic images can be stored in the computer for future reference. Just imagine - you could do a quick screening on all recall patients, especially children, with no radiation exposure. For more information, contact Electro-Optical Sciences, Inc. at (800) 729-8849 or www.difoti.com.

Logicon and Difoti are for interproximal decay. However, with the advent of fluorides and sealants, early detection of occlusal decay is often a bigger problem. Now there is the DIAGNOdent, a high-tech device from KaVo designed to detect occlusal decay. This is a laser caries-detection unit developed in Europe which helps detect caries at the earliest possible stage by measuring laser fluorescence within tooth structure.

The DIAGNOdent can detect incipient lesions before they are evident with traditional methods. It helps avoid "exploratory" excavation of suspect teeth. It uses light energy rather than X-rays, and provides precise, reliable measurements that can be monitored over time.

The unit sells for $2,600. For more information, research results, or ordering information, call (888) 528-6972 or visit www.kavousa. com.

The future is coming and it will be amazing!

Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He also is an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker who has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, and a member of AADPA. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains a Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is emmott@primenet.com.

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