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Inside Dentistry
Nov/Dec 2008
Volume 4, Issue 10

Spectra™: An Innovation in Caries Detection

The use of digital caries-detection technology in today’s dental practice is important for maintaining patient-centered care. Using a caries-detection aid enables clinicians to practice minimally invasive dentistry. Risk assessment-based early diagnosis and treatment of underlying disease can be applied before a decision is made to cut into a tooth.

In the United States, dental caries in children and adults has declined over the past 40 years; however, oral disease continues to be prevalent and presents a major public health issue. As with any disease, early caries detection is key to reversing this trend.

With the Spectra™ caries-detection aid (Figure 1), clinicians can offer patients innovative technology and better overall care. Not only does Spectra technology clearly visualize patients’ current oral hygiene status, it serves as an additional aid in evaluating the efficacy of treatment over a period of time.

What Is Spectra?

Spectra is the first ergonomic, noninvasive, handheld digital imaging instrument that aids in the detection of caries. Spectra quickly and reliably identifies decay-causing bacteria in fissures and on occlusal surfaces. Spectra uses fluorescent technology similar to the fluorescence principle used in the detection of oral cancer. Optical methods, such as Spectra, for the detection of carious lesions have the advantage of being noninvasive.

How Exactly Does Spectra Work?

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) (known in a similar form from intraoral cameras) project high-energy, violet-blue light at a wavelength of 405 nm onto the tooth surface. Light of this particular wavelength stimulates porphyrins (special metabolites of cariogenic bacteria) to fluoresce red while healthy enamel fluoresces green (Figure 2).

The captured data is sent to the office computer where Air Techniques’ Visix™ imaging software interpolates it, making the cariogenic bacteria clearly visible on the monitor. The computer displays active caries in red and healthy tooth enamel in green.

In contrast to more traditional screening and tactile detection, Spectra highlights the potential carious lesions in different color ranges and defines the potential caries’ severity on a scale from 0 to 5 (Figure 3).

How Does Spectra Differ from Most Other Caries-Detection Aids?

Using fluorescent technology, the captured data is transmitted to a computer where the image is displayed in vivid color on the monitor via imaging software. Unlike most other caries-detection aids, Spectra provides an effective visual as well as a numerical reading.

Can Spectra be Integrated into My Practice Easily?

Yes. Installing Spectra is as simple as making the necessary connections of the USB umbilical between a PC and the Spectra handpiece. Spectra operates with Visix imaging software, which easily bridges, via VisixLink, to more than 30 practice management systems. Spectra is also self-calibrating.

How Will Spectra Benefit My Practice and Patients?

The sharp, easy-to-read color images make Spectra an ideal complement to radio-graphs during patient examinations, as well as an effective tool to promote better oral hygiene. Spectra enables reliable tooth-by-tooth detection of fissure caries and caries on smooth surfaces directly after a professional cleaning. It can be used about as quickly as an inspection with a mirror. Then, clinicians can store the images in the patient’s records for more thorough case management. Spectra also can be used during the restorative phase to confirm that all caries have been removed effectively.

Overall, incorporating a caries-detection aid, such as Spectra, into patient examinations allows clinicians to bring a greater sense of certainty to their diagnoses by providing objective data to support treatment decisions. Enhanced caries-detection capability, clear-cut patient communication, and improved case presentations make Spectra an indispensable tool for every practice.

Caution: Spectra is currently under 510K US Food and Drug Administration review. Spectra is an investigational device and is limited by federal law to investigational use.

For more information:
Air Techniques, Inc
Phone: 800-AIR-TECH


The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dentistry. The preceding is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval for the aforementioned products or services or their effectiveness, quality, or safety on the part of Inside Dentistry or AEGIS Communications. The publisher disclaims responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas or products referred to in the preceding material.

Spectra Benefits Your Practice and Your Patients

  • Simple, dependable, early caries detection
  • Outline treatment options more clearly with color images
  • An ideal complement to radiographs during patient examinations
  • Noninvasive and safe
  • Capture, store, compare, and retain Spectra images
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