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E. Technology that Detects Tooth Decay in Early Stages

Narrator: This is Science Today. The tools dentists most commonly use to detect early tooth decay are the metal probe and the x-ray. Daniel Fried of the University of California, San Francisco's Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, says these procedures are effective, but they don't detect decay in its earliest stages.

Fried: What I mean by the very early stages is when it's confined to the outer enamel layers because once it penetrates down to the underlying dentin, the dentin dissolves very fast and so the decay just blooms out underneath the enamel. So it can cause what a dentist would call hidden caries.

Narrator: Fried and his colleagues are working on various types of laser technologies to provide a tool that can detect decay in these early stages.

Fried: One of the tools that we're working on is called optical coherence tomography. This is a tool that uses optical fiber technology - so, it basically has a fiber probe that you could stick into one of these pit and fissure areas or scan across the surface of the tooth and it measures changes in light scattering.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.