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Exciting New Technology at Designer Smiles!

At Designer Smiles, we are committed to providing our patients with the newest dental technology and the highest standard of care.  This means when a new development enables us to gather more detailed information in a safe, efficient way, we jump at the chance!

The CariVu is an exciting new way for Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren to gather more detailed information about your teeth.  With more information, they are able to make more precise diagnoses and better treatment plans.

What is the CariVu?

The CariVu is a tool that uses transillumination for detecting cavities and cracks in teeth.  Transillumination means transmitting light through the tooth.  The tool also contains a small camera to capture the image created by this bright light transmission.

The CariVu uses zero radiation!  It is not an x-ray.

The high powered light passes through the different types of tooth structure in different measures, so it shows a distinct contrast between enamel, dentin (the core substance of a tooth), and the inner chamber housing nerves and blood vessels.  Because cavities and cracks disrupt the composition of enamel and dentin, they show up separately in a CariVu image.

How Does the CariVu work?

The CariVu has the shape of a small wand with a cord connecting it to the dentist’s computer.  At the end of the wand, there are small, rubbery projections or fingers.  These rubber fingers wrap around the tooth on the cheek side, and the tongue side.  You may feel them touching your gums.

You can watch on the screen as the dentist or hygienist moves the wand around to capture the perfect image.  The “right” view of the tooth requires a specific amount of light, so you will see the tooth go in and out of focus until the dentist reaches the correct distance from the tooth.  Then the different layers of the tooth show up with perfect clarity.

Dr. Ann or Dr. Lauren may use the CariVu on each individual tooth to do a full mouth screening, or she may decide to get a “second opinion” on a tooth that shows a suspicious area on an x-ray.  Because most tooth cracks do not show up on dental x-rays, she will also use it on a tooth that shows a visible fracture line.

What Does the CariVu Show?

The CariVu shows any change in the density or integrity of enamel and dentin.  The two basic categories of problems detected with the CariVu are cavities and cracks.

  1. Cavities – Bacteria in the mouth cause cavities by slowly dissolving enamel with their acid by-product. As the enamel dissolves, it becomes softer and less dense, which allows even more bacteria to penetrate.  This soft, less dense area shows up on a CariVu image as a dark spot because it allows more light to pass through it.
  2. Cracks – When a tooth forms, the process creates a single, solid layer of enamel that completely covers the tooth. If enamel cracks from an injury or years of clenching and grinding your teeth, that solid layer is broken.  A crack disrupts the integrity of the enamel.  This interruption shows up on a CariVu image as a dark black line.

Wait . . . Does This Mean the Dentist will Find More Cavities?


It means the dentist will find cavities earlier.  There are two HUGE benefits to this:

  1. Early detection may lead to reversal! When cavities are in their earliest stages and limited to the enamel of the tooth only, we can stop them.  It takes some work on your part, like using prescription products and having perfect oral hygiene.  But it can be done.  By detecting these cavities in their earliest stages, you stand your best chance of not having to have a filling!
  2. Early detection leads to less extensive dental treatment. The smaller a cavity is, the less invasive it is to treat.  Smaller cavity = less drilling.  Less drilling = less sensitivity.  Less drilling = smaller filling.  Smaller filling = easier to maintain over your lifetime.  There are countless benefits to treating cavities in their early stages.

Does This Mean I Don’t Need X-rays Anymore?


The CariVu is a valuable tool that gives Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren a much more detailed look at each tooth.  With more detail, they provide better diagnoses and treatment that is more predictable.

However, the CariVu only shows a small portion of each tooth.  It is unable to show the root of each tooth or the jaw bone surrounding each tooth.  The CariVu is a zoomed-in, high-definition view of a tooth.  It is not the whole picture.

The Jaw Bone (or Periodontium)

X-rays are necessary to evaluate the status of the jaw bone surrounding each tooth in order to rule out or diagnose periodontal disease.  We often call periodontal disease, or gum disease, a “silent” disease because it usually does not cause symptoms.  In many cases, the bone encircling the teeth slowly recedes over time.  Without dental x-rays and a thorough periodontal evaluation, this would be impossible to detect.  A CariVu will not detect this type of bone loss.

The Tooth Root

X-rays are still the only possible way of viewing the tooth’s root.  The root is where many dental infections occur, leading to abscesses.  Often these infections do not cause any symptoms, and without x-rays go unnoticed until a major problem arises!  A CariVu image does not extend down the root and will miss this type of information.

How Much Does a CariVu Image Cost?


We do not charge any additional fees for the use of this amazing tool.  We include CariVu images in the cost of your evaluation.

How Can I Get a CariVu Evaluation?

Call our office at 281-667-4010 today to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They will use the CariVu to provide you with the most detailed information about your teeth.