Cavity Detection Options

June 25, 2019 - toothbar - 0 comments dentists watching x ray
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What are cavities?

Cavities are the result of bacterial colonies burrowing their way into your teeth. The bacterial release acids and turn your teeth into swiss cheese. It is difficult to see the development of a cavity, early on, because the bacterial colonies weaken the enamel at a microscopic level before the cavity finally forms. It takes months or years for the average cavity to form. Once a cavity forms, it can be detected by a dentist. There are other methods to determine the extent of damage on your tooth surfaces using microscopes, interdental luminescence, and X-rays. Let’s consider the most popular cavity detection options available at The Toothbar in greater detail, below.

Visual Exam

The easiest way for us to detect cavities is to simply go on in there and look. If you have any brown spots, complain of tooth pain, and we can see some damage to the tooth in question, you can bet that a cavity is there. Our Austin preventative dentistry team will usually probe your mouth using a mirror for a visual examination while doing the tactile exam described below.

Tactile Exam

A tactile examination uses a dental explorer, often referred to as a pick, to locate indentations and soft spots in the tooth enamel. Dr. Barclay and Dr. Jacobsen can feel when there is a cavity if the dental explorer gets caught. There are times when teeth have shallow indentations that are not deep enough to form a true cavity. In these cases, we may recommend that you use fluoride and avoid acidic foods and beverages in hopes of remineralizing the tooth surface. The fluoride can strengthen the teeth if acids from bacteria are starting to erode the surface but haven’t penetrated.


Traditional X-Rays help us locate dark spots in between teeth where it is hard to explore with a dental probe. X-Rays are also useful for examining the health of the root when determining the best course of action regarding large cavities. Sometimes, if the cavity is large enough, it will compromise the integrity of the tooth and can result in root canal infections that progressively kill the tooth and may later form an abscess below it. X-Rays are one of the best methods for determining root health.

3D Dental Imaging

We use cutting-edge computer-generated 3D scans for the most precise assessments of tooth damage. These 3D scans can quickly build a detailed digital map of the entire mouth. The key advantage is that it allows your Toothbar dentist to measure the amount of enamel left when there are big cavities. This can help them decide whether to try a pulp cap and inlay or a root canal and crown procedure. The problem is that decay has to be drilled out before a filling can be used to restore the bite and health of the tooth.

We are your Austin Dental Center

When you need state-of-the-art care to ensure optimal oral health, contact The Toothbar, your Austin preventative dentistry specialists. We have all the tools and techniques to remove any doubt regarding the best course of treatment.

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