To find developing cavities before they become deep and problematic, dentists are now able to employ of some of the new technologies available such as radiographs, dye application, or probing the mouth with an explorer. These make early detection easy, saving the patient time, money, and preventing possible pain down the road.
The explorer used to probe the mouth for cavities is made of a laser called DIAGNodent. DIAGNodent measures the fluorescence level in the tooth in order to determine the progress of a cavity. When teeth are exposed to specific wavelengths of light, where a healthy tooth won’t glow, those teeth compromised by bacteria or decay become luminescent. Another diagnostic tool dentists use is a dye that detects caries by distinguishing the difference between sound and hard dentin and dentin that is infected with bacteria and has softened. The dye is applied for about ten seconds and then rinsed off. The dentist is then able to easily see the stained dentin and can remove it with excavator tools. The process can be repeated until all the caries have been removed.
Reference: D.J. Phinney and J. H. Halstead, Dental Assisting, A Comprehensive Approach, Delmar Cengage Leaning, 3rd edition, 2008, Chapter 33, Page 789.