Diagnosis of Occlusal Caries: Part II. Recent Diagnostic Technologies

September 1, 2001
Accurate diagnosis of the presence or absence of disease is a fundamental requirement in health care. The diagnosis of non-overt occlusal decay is challenging and can be highly subjective, and its inherent uncertainties can lead to widely differing treatment decisions. The purpose of this 2-part paper is to review current knowledge concerning conventional and new diagnostic methods for occlusal caries. Part I looked at established methods for diagnosing occlusal decay. These methods have several limitations, particularly in their ability to diagnose early carious lesions. Part II examines new and emerging technologies that are being developed for the diagnosis of occlusal decay. Electrical conductance measurements and quantitative laser- or light-induced fluorescence represent significant improvements over conventional diagnostic methods, especially for in vitro applications and particularly with regard to sensitivity and reproducibility. Proponents of the DIAGNOdent laser fluorescence system claim that it evaluates the fluorescence that develops when laser light is incident on areas of demineralization. This noninvasive device is simple to use and provides quantitative data. Studies supporting its validity are limited but do suggest good sensitivity and excellent reproducibility. However, the DIAGNOdent system requires more scientific scrutiny. Although it offers a high rate of disease detection, it has little ability to indicate the extent of decay. In all treatment decisions, clinicians must be aware of the limitations of the diagnostic methods that have been used. Clinical judgment based on the patientÂ’s case history, visual cues, review of radiographs and probability of disease is still the most important aspect of optimum patient care. New technologies may provide supplemental information, but they cannot yet replace established methods for the diagnosis of occlusal caries.

MeSH Key Words: dental caries/diagnosis; fluorescence; human lasers/diagnostic use

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