As a fan of technology, I read dental journals and technology blogs for materials and equipment that can improve the way I approach dentistry. Recently, I discovered the DEXIS™ CariVu caries detection device that uses near-infrared (NIR) transillumination technology.
The CariVu device takes transillumination to a higher level. The device detects carious lesions and cracks interproximally, occlusally, and around cracks and restorations through near-infrared light. Dense enamel reflects this light while the porous carious lesions trap and absorb the light. As a result, CariVu produces an image where the healthy tooth appears light and the lesions dark. This results in accurate information without any ionizing radiation exposure.
Before CariVu, I tried a form of illumination using a penlight-like device that I would shine on the tooth in a darkened operatory while the patient viewed the area in a hand-held mirror. While patients were polite and said they saw what I was pointing to, I doubt they really saw the caries. With CariVu, I can move the device, pivot it to manually change the focal depth, and have an active visualization of the tooth. Even better, I can capture that image, put it on a big screen, enlarge it, explain to the patient that the area of decay is dark, and point out areas of concern. When seeing all of this in black and white, patients become interested, informed, and ready to accept treatment.
Besides educating the patients, I know the CariVu image will provide the information I need to treat caries efficiently. CariVu illuminates both sides of the tooth simultaneously so I can see the size, shape and scope of initial carious lesions and around margins of failing restorations and plan excavation and treatment more effectively. Since I have this information before beginning treatment, it allows for smaller accesses and less invasive treatment. I can view fractures and related caries better with NIR transillumination technology than on X-ray, which can be misleading due to issues like burnout or the wrong angle.
When using the CariVu device, each time I open a tooth, I know what I saw on the image is the same as I will encounter in the mouth. I’ve seen the (near-infrared) light, and the CariVu slogan is really true — the story of caries is all there in black and white.
About the Author: Dr. Grant Smith attended dental school at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), and completed a residency in the special patient care clinic. There he worked with transplant patients, oncology patients, and others who needed more care than the rank and file at UMKC could provide, or they needed things done quickly to prepare for surgery. Dr. Grant says he learned more in this residency than he has perhaps ever learned in his whole life. He now is the “Gentle Dentist” at Prairie Village Dentists in Prairie Village, Kansas.