Dr. David Kaplan performing a routine checkup

Doing an examination in the hygiene room.

Dentists love compressed air:

Twice this week, people asked me why do we blow compressed air on teeth during an examination.  One person prefaced the question saying, ‘You’ve been blowing air on my teeth for 15 years.  Why?’.  Well, he didn’t have to wait that long to ask me, I would have answered the question on day one.    When you get a dental examination you either experience one or both of the following.  Dentists use compressed air to dry the teeth or he or she picks up a dental explorer (commonly called the hook by children) or mirror and proceeds to examine your teeth.  Dry air techniques are taught in dental schools these days.  First the air removes the saliva from your teeth.  This way we don’t have to look through saliva bubbles to see the teeth.  Drying the teeth allows us to see all the subtle shades in a tooth.

We look for color changes:

Dental caries or cavities cause distinctive color changes in a tooth.  Changes in color from white spots to dark staining indicate where active dental decay may be present.  Some may remember getting dental exams with a dental explorer and the dentist pressing in areas where he or she may think decay is present.  The difficulty with this method is that there may be areas of decalcification which may not need to be treated but excessive probing pressure can accelerate and break down fragile enamel.   Decalcification or weakened enamel can be treated with fluoride and strengthened.


Other examination techniques:

In short a dental caries (cavity) examination should be conducted with air and gentle use of a dental explorer.  Some areas where air doesn’t at all are examining existing crowns in the back of the mouth.  Gentle use of a dental explorer is the preferred method here.  There are other methods to examine for new cavities.  We now use laser instruments to examine for new cavities in children, which we have in our office.  Researchers call  computerized light measurements, DIFOTI.  This is a heavily researched area.  We would love to have some thing to examine a tooth and tell us exactly what is happening under a crown or restoration without the use of x-rays.  Unfortunately we aren’t there yet.   So expect to see your dentist use compressed air during an examination for a while.


New techniques include optical examinations for cavities.  The product is called Caries Vu and is based on research technology called DIFOTI.  Please don’t ask me to explain the acronym.  Basically we shine a infrared light on both sides of the tooth and take an image of the tooth.  It is the premier way to find cracks in teeth.  We also us it to decide when to treat cavities we diagnosed from x-ray files. The more information the better.  You can check this out at :


Let us know what you think.

If you would like to come to our office call 518-374-0496.

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