Dental Breakthrough Lessens Need for X-Rays, Metal Probes

The digital-imaging tool uses colors and numbers to identify problem areas

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Going to the dentist can be a painful and stressful experience. But a new diagnostic device is using the power of light to detect cavities and tooth decay. This means less drilling, fewer X-rays, and less anxiety in the dental chair. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 3, 2014. (Published Monday, Mar 3, 2014)

    A technological breakthrough has the power to make dental appointments less intrusive and more pain-free by nixing the need for X-rays and metal probes.

    The tool, called Spectra, uses ultraviolet light to pinpoint cavities, tooth decay and plaque. Working in tandem with software, the digital-imaging instrument collects pertinent data and projects images onto a computer.

    Dr. Bianka Bidovska Miller, of North Hollywood, has integrated the device into her practice. She said she prefers to use Spectra to track small cavities as opposed to drilling into them, if possible.

    "Once we start drilling the tooth," she said, "we are destroying that perfection Mother Nature gives us."

    Breanna Gutierrez, one of Miller’s patients, went in for a check-up recently. The 5-year-old is not a big fan of dentist appointments, according to her mother, Patricia Alonso.

    But with Spectra, Miller's process proved to be simpler for Miller and less stressful for Gutierrez.

    Spectra locates precarious areas by using different colors, as well as a number scale that ranges in severity.

    The colors show dentists how much bacteria there are on each tooth, and the numbers represent cavity depth.

    The system does not signal an end for X-rays, as they are still the only way to see between teeth. But proactive Spectra use can reduce the frequency of X-ray appointments.

    The device also helps dentists see if patients are exercising proper brushing techniques.

    "I think this will help develop good habits for her to want to go to the dentist on a regular basis without being afraid," Alonso said.

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