|Most people agree that a good smile is an important social asset, but the problem is that many Americans still suffer from tooth decay and tooth loss. The good news is that advanced technology is making it easier to detect early and advanced signs of tooth decay. Machines using lasers and lights can detect decay earlier than the traditional method, which uses x-rays.
The system is called the Canary System and was introduced in the United States in 2013, and has been shown to detect earlier signs of decay. According to the Wall Street Journal, one study of the Canary, which was presented at the European Organization for Caries Research, compared the accuracy and ability of the Canary to the traditional x-ray. Researchers found that the Canary was able to detect 93% of the decayed teeth in the sample, but gave a false positive in seven healthy teeth. The x-ray only detected decay in 23% of the sample, with a false positive in five of the teeth.
Though this is a step in the right direction for the ability to detect tooth decay, there are a couple of caveats here. The first is that the Canary does give false positive results in some cases. The other is that the question is not so much a matter of detection, but intervention. Having the ability to detect tooth decay is helpful, but what really matters for patients is getting the proper treatment.
Though the Canary gives dentists a method for earlier detection, the important part of the process is treatment. Very advanced tooth decay may result in tooth loss, especially for older adults. More than half of people who need cosmetic dentistry, like dental implants for missing teeth, are between the ages of 41 and 60.
Early detection may lead to a decrease in the need for dental implants, but they are an effective treatment option for very advanced tooth decay, since they replace teeth altogether and are shown to be 98% successful.