Tools of the Trade: Diagnodent

The Kavo Diagnodent
The Kavo Diagnodent

by Dr Vicky Ho, Advanced Dental Artistry, Mosman Park, WA

KaVo’s Diagnodent is used to diagnose dental decay and is much more accurate than a probe or explorer. Even though this is my standard diagnostic tool now, it’s not the be all and end all. You still need to use your clinical judgement.

What’s good about it


It projects a laser through the tooth and responds to how the light is reflected and absorbed. The results give an accurate measurement of the depth of a cavity.

It’s more comfortable for the patient because it’s not invasive. It also makes an audible sound so patients can hear if something has been found. The sound gets deeper and shriller the larger the cavity, so it’s not just me saying I can feel a ‘catch’—which is often a very abstract to patients.

Nowadays, with fluoride in the water, the surface of the tooth may be fairly solid but can have teardrop-shaped cavities, or the cavity might be really tiny and easy to miss. The laser goes deeper than the surface and detects what’s underneath.

A big advantage of Diagnodent is that it detects problems early. If a patient comes in with a tooth that’s reading 25, then at the next visit the reading is 35, you know things are getting worse. This allows you to make a decision about when to respond. When you’re watching a problem area, you can actually measure the progress rather than guessing what it was like last year.

It’s also portable and can be carried from one surgery to another. It has been proven to be over 90 per cent accurate in caries detection.

What’s not so good

Sometimes it can give a false reading due to food, layers of filling material or fissure sealants as they are different densities. You need to clean the surface of the tooth, and use your judgement to verify a diagnosis.

Where did you get it

Ivoclar Vivadent.

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