New technology promises to fight cavities easier

A blast of air dries the surface of Nicole Blakeney's teeth making them camera ready.

"The camera we have today will actually send a light beam into your tooth, there's no radiation involved and as the light comes back, it will tell me if there's bacteria in your tooth or not," said San Ramon dentist Parag Kachalia, D.D.S.

Kachalia uses a device called Spectra to capture these high tech images of Nicole's teeth, mapping potential trouble spots. Bacteria will fluoresce at a certain wave length.

"The purplish blue you see on the middle of your tooth tells us there's early breakdown to your enamel," said Kachalia.

And at this stage, it is reversible-- with better brushing, perhaps adding fluoride to that area. But spots that are reddish orange indicate decay.

"The red highlights that you see show us you've broken through the enamel and you're starting to get in to the second layer tooth structure," said Kachalia.

His recommendation is a small, conservative filling.

"I think dentistry has changed more in the last five years than almost the prior 50 years," said Kachalia.

As an associate professor at UOP's Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, Kachalia is in charge of implementing new dental technologies there.

"It doesn't replace our mindset or our brains or our general look, what it does is it's an added factor," said Kachalia.

"Personally I love it because it's a lot less intrusive than using a little fork to poke at your teeth," said Blakeney.

Instead of poking for sticky spots that could indicate decay, the camera captures detailed images that become part of a patient's medical record.

"With a picture, we can see the image, have it present today and do follow ups, we can compare the two, we can overlap the images and decide has there been any growth in the lesion or the decay area that's present, or has it gotten better," said Kachalia.

And patient's like Blakeney become part of the process.

"We're all visual people, so if you can look and see visually there's the red, you know where you need to be working," said Blakeney.

The technology recently received FDA approval. Kachalia says it doesn't cost his patients anything extra. It's an investment he's made in his practice.

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