How Lasers Can Detect Hidden Cavities

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Sometimes you can both see and feel a cavity, but sometimes you can only feel it. You might begin to feel those telltale signs, such as an increased level of sensitivity, often combined with a lingering sense of discomfort. You might suspect that you have a cavity, but you certainly can't see it, no matter how many times you stare closely at your teeth in the mirror. Naturally, the next step is a trip to the dentist, but what happens when they can't see a cavity either?

Invisible to the Naked Eye

Cavities are thought of as dark spots, literal holes in your dental enamel, where it has eroded and exposed the dentin beneath. This is true, but cavities can sometimes be invisible to the naked eye, meaning they won't be spotted during a routine dental inspection.

Tiny Holes

There are many methods to improve dental health that actually contribute to these microscopic cavities. Fluoride and other ways to protect your dental enamel can leave the enamel largely intact, with only tiny holes forming. The actual cavity can be developing beneath the enamel while still giving the tooth the appearance of being healthy. This appearance won't last.


Naturally, your dentist has a range of diagnostic tools at their disposal to hunt for these tiny cavities. A dental x-ray can be beneficial, as this allows your dentist to see inside your teeth, meaning that the cavity will be visible, despite the fact that it can't be seen during a visual inspection. While an x-ray isn't particularly invasive, it's an inconvenience, especially when it might not technically be needed. 


Before ordering an x-ray, your dentist can try another method, which is to hunt for those tiny cavities using a laser. Your dentist can use a small handheld laser that shines on the surface of your teeth, exposing cavities that might be lurking beneath the enamel. Under the laser, these cavities show as dark spots, despite the fact that the surface enamel is still more-or-less intact, with the surface breach being invisible without the laser. 

Patching the Cavity

Once the laser has accurately identified the location of the hidden cavity, your dentist can go about repairing the damage. This involves the cavity being significantly widened, as your dentist will need to access your tooth in order to remove the deteriorated portions, before filling the cavity to restore the structure of your tooth.

Just because you can't see a cavity, it doesn't mean it's not there. Fortunately, your dentist will be able to find it, and this can sometimes involve a laser. If you have additional questions, contact a local dentist.