Today we are doing a lot more than just looking for holes, but we still diagnose caries lesions.
You may notice that I hardly use a dental explorer anymore. I rely mostly on a visual examination of the teeth. I dry teeth off and use magnification loupes to evaluate the tooth surface.
If I use an explorer it is to remove soft plaque or stain of the teeth and to feel for roughness of the surface. Stickieness on the chewing surface of teeth is a poor diagnostic criterium and it may not mean that there is a cavity. It could just be a deep groove in the tooth.
Caries diagnosis is getting more advanced. Research shows us that an explorer can actually harm the teeth. If it is not used correctly, you can create lesions on teeth and spread bacteria from tooth to tooth. A visual exam supplemented with x-rays is my method of choice based upon the body of research. Once in a while you may hear me ask for an explorer to evaluate a specific lesion, but it will not be to poke around on all teeth. Those days should be long over.....
Dr. Dietmar Kennel
Lubbock KIDS Dental