The core of hi tech diagnostics is the ability to scientifically measure a physiologic condition and then to convert those measurements to a digital format for analysis and recording. The result is a highly accurate and consistent measurement.
The best known example is digital x-ray. The physiologic condition is tissue density. It is recorded in a digital format by passing x-rays through the tissue and then capturing the data using a solid state computer chip. We can now use software to analyze it.
However this example is complicated by the fact we are used to analyzing a similar non digital film image with our eyes so we don’t easily appreciate the software analysis. Most dentists in fact just analyze and diagnose from the digital radiograph with their eyes. Just as they did film in the past; it just seems like a different version of the same old diagnostic.
A more vivid example of this process is caries detection instruments like the AT Spectra. The physiologic condition is the presence of decay producing bacteria. The bacteria are detected using specific wavelengths of light. The bacteria fluoresce in different wavelengths or colors as shown in the photo above which can be detected with a computer chip (similar to the chips used in the radiography sensors) and the colors analyzed to determine the presence of caries. This process is so different from our old poke it with a sharp stick method we more easily see that we are getting a digital result that we can analyze with software.
Note: The original version of this post showed an image not from Spectra but from the SoproLIFE camera which detects decay by identifying actual changes in tooth morphology.
A final example is the Florida Probe which measures the physiological condition of gingival pocket depth. That is recorded on a chart and can be easily analyzed.
We have just scratched the surface with high tech digital diagnostics. As we learn additional methods to capture appropriate physiological data our diagnosis will become faster, more accurate and less expensive.