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Does using dental explorer cause small cavities to become larger?



Junior member
Jan 6, 2019
From wikipedia:

In the past it was usual for dentists to use the explorer to probe teeth for the presence of cavities. Some dental professionals have questioned this practice in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The use of a sharp explorer to diagnose caries in pit and fissure sites is no longer recommended and clinicians instead should rely on "sharp eyes and a blunt explorer or probe." Penetration by a sharp explorer can actually cause cavitation in areas that are remineralizing or could be remineralized. Dental lesions initially develop as a subsurface lesion. Early lesions may be reversed - with meticulous patient self-care and application of fluoride - as long as the thin surface layer remains intact. The use of a dental explorer with firm pressure to probe suspicious areas may result in the rupture of the surface layer covering early lesions. Instead, they argue that fluoride and oral hygiene should be used to remineralize the enamel and prevent it from decaying further. This debate still continues because sometimes decay can be difficult to diagnose without tactile verification. Additionally, radiographs and other products designed to identify decay (such as measuring fluorescence from a laser) help the dental professional make a final diagnosis of tooth decay.

Should I ask my dentist to not use this anymore. Is an xray enough to diagnose cavities? Is there any benefit to using a dental explorer as opposed to x ray?

Thanks for your help!
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I have never heard this, but am interested in what the dentists will say. I have a tiny cavity on the back of my first lower molar that was a "watch and see". The dentist couldn't probe it because it was between my molars but now the 2nd molar has been extracted.
It is true, however a dentist may run the probe over the area to get a feel of how smooth it is, or he may apply more pressure to a gap between a filling and the tooth to see if that feels sticky as these areas cannot harden. I think most forward thinking dentists rely more on using magnifying loops and a good light to visually assess suspect areas than jabbing at them with a sharp probe. I have always been very wary of probing as my apprehensive patients hate the sensation. I did once have an elderly patient question the thoroughness of my examination once as he was so used to being probed firmly.
Lincoln speaks the truth as usual.

X-rays aren't any use for detecting early caries, which is where a bit of (gentle) use of a probe comes in. There used to be an electronic gadget around called a Diagnodent which was a very promising bit of technology to detect decay earlier and more reliably using (I think infra red) however it never really caught on.

I had one but I never really trusted it :)