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Lasers Surg Med. 2011 Dec;43(10):951-9. doi: 10.1002/lsm.21139. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Non-destructive clinical assessment of occlusal caries lesions using near-IR imaging methods.

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  • 1Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0758, USA.



Enamel is highly transparent in the near-IR (NIR) at wavelengths near 1,300 nm, and stains are not visible. The purpose of this study was to use NIR transillumination and optical coherence tomography (OCT) to estimate the severity of caries lesions on occlusal surfaces both in vivo and on extracted teeth.


Extracted molars with suspected occlusal lesions were examined with OCT and polarization sensitive OCT (PS-OCT), and subsequently sectioned and examined with polarized light microscopy (PLM) and transverse microradiography (TMR). Teeth in test subjects with occlusal caries lesions that were not cavitated or visible on radiographs were examined using NIR transillumination at 1,310 nm using a custom built probe attached to an indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) camera and a linear OCT scanner. After imaging, cavities were prepared using dye staining to guide caries removal and physical impressions of the cavities were taken.


The lesion severity determined from OCT and PS-OCT scans in vitro correlated with the depth determined using PLM and TMR. Occlusal caries lesions appeared in NIR images with high contrast in vivo. OCT scans showed that most of the lesions penetrated to dentin and spread laterally below the sound enamel.


This study demonstrates that both NIR transillumination and OCT are promising new methods for the clinical diagnosis of occlusal caries.

Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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