In vitro evaluation of the Spectra early caries detection system

J Clin Dent. 2012;23(1):1-6.


Objective: The goal of this study was to perform an in vitro evaluation of the Spectra, a new caries detector that uses light-induced fluorescence of healthy tooth structure and bacterial pigments to optically detect caries. The Spectra generates a storable color map image of examined tooth surfaces which shows areas of enamel and dentin caries. In this study, Spectra readings of occlusal surfaces were compared to clinical, radiographic, and histological assessments of caries.

Methods: Two examiners evaluated 41 extracted molars. The teeth were radiographed and then visually assessed. The International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS) was used to classify the extent of caries. The teeth were then sectioned and assigned a histological score based on the extension of caries into enamel or dentin.

Results: Teeth lacking radiographic caries had a mean Spectra reading of 1.5. Teeth having radiographic caries had a mean Spectra reading of 2.0. This difference was statistically significant. In general, higher ICDAS scores were associated with higher Spectra readings. Teeth with histologically evident deep dentin caries had significantly higher Spectra readings than intact teeth or teeth with superficial enamel demineralization. Spectra assessment of occlusal caries agrees with clinical and radiographic methods.

Conclusion: Spectra images illustrate the full spectrum of caries severity, from enamel demineralization to dentin decay. The Spectra is a promising technology for the diagnosis and for monitoring the progression of occlusal caries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Color
  • Dental Caries / diagnosis*
  • Dental Caries / diagnostic imaging
  • Dental Caries / pathology
  • Dental Enamel / diagnostic imaging
  • Dental Enamel / pathology
  • Dental Fissures / diagnosis
  • Dental Fissures / diagnostic imaging
  • Dental Fissures / pathology
  • Dentin / diagnostic imaging
  • Dentin / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Equipment Design
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Luminescent Measurements / instrumentation
  • Luminescent Measurements / standards*
  • Molar, Third / diagnostic imaging
  • Molar, Third / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Software
  • Tooth Demineralization / diagnosis
  • Tooth Demineralization / diagnostic imaging
  • Tooth Demineralization / pathology