Diagnostic Services

Your check engine light is on.

Picture of dental x-rayDid you know there’s more to your teeth than just the part you can see? Diagnostic technologies, like X-Rays, help us see beneath the gums to get a more complete picture of your dental health.

Dental X-Rays allow us to see abnormalities and imperfections deep below the surface, including tooth decay and signs of gum (periodontal) disease. After your check up, we may schedule an X-Ray so that we can make the most accurate diagnosis possible.

X-Rays are an important part of your dental exam because they can allow us to see trouble areas well before they cause serious problems—this can save time, money and pain in the long run!

What if I’m pregnant?

Don’t worry. The amount of radiation you are exposed to during a dental X-Ray is already very small—less than a cross-country airplane flight. If your dental X-Ray cannot be delayed, we’ll take extra precautions to protect you and your baby.


And now, there’s a revolutionary technology that has made cavities much easier to detect. Using painless, harmless pulses of light, DIAGNOdent scans your teeth for decay. If a cavity is present, the light that bounces back to the sensor activates an audible signal and a digital readout—actually showing us the extent of the decay.

Talk with us during your next visit to learn more about our diagnostic capabilities!


Q: Does it hurt?
A: No! DIAGNOdent is completely painless. It’s energy level similar to that of a laser pointer, the laser beam is harmless to surrounding tissues.

Q: What are the shortcomings of the traditional dental techniques like probing and x-ray imaging?
A: Believe it or not, as much as 50% of tooth decay may go undetected by traditional dental methods of probing and other diagnostic techniques.

Q: How long has this technology been around?
A: While the device has been in use in Europe for several years, the FDA has recently approved the use of the cavity-detecting laser for use by dentists in the U.S.

Q: Where does most tooth decay start today?
A: Today most tooth decay starts in the hard-to-see valleys and canyon-like anatomy of the tooth surface.

Q: Why are these pit and valley cavities more important to detect today than in the past?
A: In the past tooth decay predominated in between teeth. With the widespread use of fluoride treatment, the very nature of tooth decay has changed. The outer surfaces of teeth are strengthened and more resistant. Today the pit and valley cavities are more prevalent than cavities in between teeth.

Q: Why can’t traditional methods like x-rays see these pit and valley cavities?
A: Pit and valley cavities are traditionally the most difficult to detect using x-rays due to the direction the images are taken from. Images are taken from the side of the tooth, which essentially hides the cavity from the dentists view.

Q: If DIAGNOdent is good at finding pit and fissure cavities do I still need x-rays?
A: Yes, x-ray imaging is an indispensable diagnostic tool for dentistry. X-rays and DIAGNOdent complement each other. X-rays are good at finding cavities in between teeth and on the roots. DIAGNOdent is good at find cavities on the tooth’s biting surface.

Q: If you can’t see it with your naked eye then why should one be concerned?
A: An almost undetectable area of decay can aggressively penetrate inward towards the soft surfaces of the tooth and literally destroy the tooth from the inside out. This can happen before a cavity is even visible to the naked eye.

Q: Why can’t traditional methods like the dental probe (pick) find these pit and valley cavities?
A: This type of decay can make diagnosis with traditional methods difficult because the outer tooth surface often appears to be intact and the probe may be too large to detect the cavity.

Q: How does DIAGNOdent work?
A: DIAGNOdent is first calibrated to your unique tooth structure by scanning a cleaned tooth surface with a harmless laser beam. After calibration a team member will gently scan your teeth. A small countertop unit emits an audio signal and registers a digital read-out, which identifies cavities developing below the surface, the higher the amount of fluorescence detected by the machine, the greater the degree of decay within the tooth.

Q: What is the benefit to me?
A: Because the decay is detected earlier, the number of dental procedures - and hence, the cost - can often be reduced. It’s a great way to keep little problems from becoming big problems.

Q: How long does the DIAGNOdent process take?
A: A few minutes are all it takes to scan your entire mouth.

Q: How much does it cost?
A: Drs. Abernethy, Sonner and Wells use the DIAGNOdent laser as a routine part of exams and there is no additional fee associated with the scan.

Q: What is the DIAGNOdent actually measuring?
A: The DIAGNOdent measures laser fluorescence within the tooth structure. As the incident laser light is propagated into the site, two-way handpiece optics allows the unit to simultaneously quantify the reflected laser light energy. At the specific wavelength that the DIAGNOdent laser operates, clean healthy tooth structure exhibits little or no fluorescence, resulting in very low scale readings on the display. However, carious tooth structure will exhibit fluorescence, proportionate to the degree of caries, resulting in elevated scale readings on the display.

Q: Can DIAGNOdent be used around existing composite resin restorations?
A: No. Because composite resins can fluoresce, prompting elevated readings, the DIAGNOdent should not be used on these materials.

Q: Can DIAGNOdent read caries under an existing amalgam?
A: If there is caries at the margin, it will give an accurate reading; however if the caries is under the floor of the amalgam the reading will not be accurate.

Q: Can DIAGNOdent be used on both primary and permanent teeth?
A: Studies have shown the unit is equally accurate in both primary and permanent teeth.

Q: As the device is a laser, is protective eye wear required?
A: No. The device is harmless when used as directed

Patients come to us form diagnostic services from Garner, Raleigh, Apex, Cary, Clayton and nearby areas.