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J Am Dent Assoc. 2012 Apr;143(4):339-50.

The performance of conventional and fluorescence-based methods for occlusal caries detection: an in vivo study with histologic validation.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dentistry, UNICSUL-Cruzeiro do Sul University, São Paulo, Brazil.



The authors conducted an in vivo study to determine clinical cutoffs for a laser fluorescence (LF) device, an LF pen and a fluorescence camera (FC), as well as to evaluate the clinical performance of these methods and conventional methods in detecting occlusal caries in permanent teeth by using the histologic gold standard for total validation of the sample.


One trained examiner assessed 105 occlusal surfaces by using the LF device, LF pen, FC, International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS) criteria and bitewing (BW) radiographic methods. After tooth extraction, the authors assessed the teeth histologically. They determined the optimal clinical cutoffs by means of receiver operating characteristic curve analysis.


The specificities and sensitivities for enamel and dentin caries detection versus only dentin caries detection thresholds were 0.60 and 0.93 and 0.77 and 0.52 (ICDAS), 1.00 and 0.29 and 0.97 and 0.44 (BW radiography), 1.00 and 0.85 and 0.77 and 0.81 (LF device), 0.80 and 0.89 and 0.71 and 0.85 (LF pen) and 0.80 and 0.74 and 0.49 and 0.85 (FC), respectively. The accuracy values were higher for ICDAS, the LF device and the LF pen than they were for BW radiography and the FC.


The clinical cutoffs for sound teeth, enamel carious lesions and dentin carious lesions were, respectively, 0 through 4, 5 through 27 and 28 through 99 (LF device); 0 through 4, 5 through 32 and 33 through 99 (LF pen); and 0 through 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 through 5.0 (FC). The ICDAS, the LF device and the LF pen demonstrated good performance in helping detect occlusal caries in vivo. The ICDAS did not seem to perform as well at the D(3) threshold (histologic scores 3 and 4) as at the D(1) threshold (histologic scores 1-4). BW radiography and the FC had the lowest performances in helping detect lesions at the D(1) and D(3) thresholds, respectively.


Occlusal caries detection should be based primarily on visual inspection. Fluorescence-based methods may be used to provide a second opinion in clinical practice.

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