Alternative methods to visual and radiographic examinations for approximal caries detection

J Oral Sci. 2017 Sep 14;59(3):315-322. doi: 10.2334/josnusd.16-0595. Epub 2017 May 19.


A shift in caries prevalence from occlusal surfaces to approximal surfaces has been demonstrated by epidemiological studies. Two recent meta-analyses evaluated the performance of visual examination and radiography for carious lesion detection, and reported low sensitivity but high specificity for early approximal caries detection. This suggests that the conventional methods have a higher risk of failing to detect approximal lesions. Consequently, in caries susceptible populations, there is a risk of progression of non-cavitated lesions to irreversible tooth destruction before the lesions are detected. This paper aims to review the performance of unconventional and novel methods for approximal caries detection. In vitro and in vivo studies identified through a MEDLINE search using keywords such as caries detection, approximal caries detection, light fluorescence and dental caries, and transillumination and dental caries were reviewed. The unconventional methods known to be used for approximal caries detection and included in this review are: cone beam computed tomography, fiber-optic trans-illumination, digital imaging fiber optic trans-illumination, near-infrared digital imaging transillumination, optical coherence tomography, laser fluorescence, ultrasound, and LED reflection and refraction.

Keywords: approximal caries detection; cone beam computed tomography; frequency-domain infrared photothermal radiometry; laser fluorescence; modulated luminescence; optical coherence tomography; transillumination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cone-Beam Computed Tomography
  • Dental Caries / diagnosis*
  • Dental Caries / diagnostic imaging
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Radiography, Bitewing
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Transillumination
  • Ultrasonography