Spectra™: An Innovation in Caries Detection
The use of digital caries-detection technology in today’s dental practice is important for maintaining patient-centered care. Using a caries-detection aid enables clinicians to practice minimally invasive dentistry. Risk assessment-based early diagnosis and treatment of underlying disease can be applied before a decision is made to cut into a tooth.
In the United States, dental caries in children and adults has declined over the past 40 years; however, oral disease continues to be prevalent and presents a major public health issue. As with any disease, early caries detection is key to reversing this trend.
With the Spectra™ caries-detection aid (Figure 1), clinicians can offer patients innovative technology and better overall care. Not only does Spectra technology clearly visualize patients’ current oral hygiene status, it serves as an additional aid in evaluating the efficacy of treatment over a period of time.
What Is Spectra?
Spectra is the first ergonomic, noninvasive, handheld digital imaging instrument that aids in the detection of caries. Spectra quickly and reliably identifies decay-causing bacteria in fissures and on occlusal surfaces. Spectra uses fluorescent technology similar to the fluorescence principle used in the detection of oral cancer. Optical methods, such as Spectra, for the detection of carious lesions have the advantage of being noninvasive.
How Exactly Does Spectra Work?
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) (known in a similar form from intraoral cameras) project high-energy, violet-blue light at a wavelength of 405 nm onto the tooth surface. Light of this particular wavelength stimulates porphyrins (special metabolites of cariogenic bacteria) to fluoresce red while healthy enamel fluoresces green (Figure 2).
The captured data is sent to the office computer where Air Techniques’ Visix™ imaging software interpolates it, making the cariogenic bacteria clearly visible on the monitor. The computer displays active caries in red and healthy tooth enamel in green.
In contrast to more traditional screening and tactile detection, Spectra highlights the potential carious lesions in different color ranges and defines the potential caries’ severity on a scale from 0 to 5 (Figure 3).