Have you seen the CSI type of TV shows where the valiant crime scene detective puts on some funky goggles and then shines an eerie blue light over the scene looking for clues? What they are doing is using an alternative light source or natural fluorescence to reveal details that are hard to detect with normal white light. The same kind of technology is what is behind the new cancer detection systems being introduced to dentistry
There are two major cancer detection systems currently available. ViziLite from Zila Pharmaceuticals and VELscope from LED-Dental. These systems appear to be the same, they both use a blue light and filters, however they employ quite different science.
ViziLite is a disposable chemical light source packaged in a wand. When the chemicals are mixed the wand gives of a specific blue light. This light is used to illuminate the oral tissues. Certain changes in the mucosa are easier to detect with this alternative light source.
VELscope is an instrument which produces a specific blue light as well. However the tissues are then viewed through the VELscope handpiece which filters out most of the ambient reflected light. What the user sees through the handpiece is the natural fluorescence of the mucosal tissue. Dysplasia (even early dysplasia) produces chemical changes at the cellular level in both the epithelium and the underlying connective tissue which results in decreased fluorescence.