Is the discolored groove of my tooth a stain or a cavity?

All back teeth come in with grooves that are either shallow, deep, wide or narrow. These grooves can be almost impossible to reach with tooth brush bristles and thus can not be kept totally clean. They can then become discolored as they trap stains or as they trap plaque that causes underlying cavities. If the discoloration is caused only by stains, no intervention is necessary. However, if the discoloration is caused by an underlying cavity then intervention is recommended to stop the progression of tooth decay and preserve the rest of the tooth structure. When the discolored groove is not clinically sticky (soft), it becomes more challenging to distinguish between a stain and a cavity. A Diagnodent –a new laser technology that scans your teeth with harmless pulses of light – can then be used to distinguish between stains and cavities with more precision.

In the above example, intervention was recommended after the groove was tested by a Diagnodent and confirmed to have an underlying cavity.

Samer S. Alassaad, DDS

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