New research: Spectra dental caries optical detection

A earlier Helios Laser Dentistry Today post featured Spectra™ as a key component in diagnosing occlusal molar dental caries. We noted that during the last 30 years, major changes have occurred in the pattern of dental caries disease. Caries have become an endemic disease which, with modern hygiene, becomes harder to detect and treat. Dr. Michael D. Swick thus proposed Spectra as a noninvasive measure for detecting lesion progression at stages in which minimally invasive restorative techniques can be used effectively. Our suggestions have just been corroborated.

Journal of Clinical Dentistry Vol 23 (1) contentsThe Journal of Clinical Dentistry has published its first issue for 2012. The lead article: “In Vitro Evaluation of the Spectra Early Caries Detection System.” The authors (Maria Graye, Kenneth Markowitz, Maxine Strickland, Gerald Guzy, Mary Burke, and Milton Houpi) comprise a private practice pedodontist and five faculty members from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The evaluation finds that Spectra is a useful adjunct for detecting, assessing, and monitoring enamel demineralization and caries progression. Kathy Kincade, Editor in Chief at Dr. Biscuspid, has provided a timely review, summarized herein.

Using 41 extracted molars, the research compared Spectra and radiographic caries expression on occlusal surfaces. Caries progression was classified using the International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS).

Air Techniques Spectra caries detection aid

Air Techniques Spectra caries detection aid

Radiography found that 9 of the 41 occlusal surfaces showed signs of decay. Spectra replicated these results. Moreover, high ICDAS scores were associated with higher Spectra readings. Spectra readings thus add significant information to relatively low sensitivity/high specificity radiographic results. Using Spectra along with radiography, the clinician may identify smaller lesion progressions. Spectra also detected in detected dentin caries better than radiography alone.

In sum, “When used in conjunction with visual and radiographic examination, the Spectra is an effective means of analyzing the occlusal surface of molars and is well-suited to detecting early stages of the caries process. The Spectra can detect areas of enamel demineralization and dentin decay, as well as create a continuous scale that represents the full extent of the caries process.”

We reiterate that Spectra provides simple, dependable, early caries detection and supports a minimally invasive treatment approach. The color imagery makes caries progression more clear and allows for more focused treatment options. Spectra is safe, user-friendly and patient-friendly.

Dental Tech Today features products and protocols that can help practitioners achieve better patient care, clinical efficiencies, and significant returns on investment. Dental lasers are among the products, but the concept reaches to include many technologies for disease-focused, minimally-invasive dental diagnosis and treatment.  


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  1. [...] New research: Spectra dental caries optical detection system …Feb 20, 2012 … The Helios Laser Dentistry Today blog listed Spectra as an effective detection system for early stage dental caries. Peer-reviewed results now … [...]