Early detection of dental caries is vital if improved patient outcomes are to be achieved by reversal of the demineralization process. Current techniques used by dentists for identifying carious lesions are effective in identifying more advanced lesions, but do not have sufficient sensitivity and specificity to detect them at the earliest stages. This study focused on characterizing the growth of incipient carious lesions in vitro using micro-Raman spectroscopy. The incipient carious lesions were grown on the buccal faces of human molars by controlled exposure to lactic acid. Lesions were cross-sectioned to expose the subsurface body of the lesion and then examined using micro-Raman spectroscopy. The intensity of the phosphate peaks in the Raman spectra was found to differ significantly between healthy enamel and the demineralized region of the lesions. The sensitivity of the phosphate peaks to the degree of demineralization was observed by taking a series of spectra over the cross section of the lesions. This revealed that the body of the lesion is highly demineralized, but in a narrow surface region (up to 10 μm) there is little demineralization. All the phosphate peaks were found to be sensitive to the degree of demineralization; however, changes in the intensity of the pronounced phosphate peak at 961 cm-1 offer the most promise for identifying lesions. The results indicate that micro-Raman spectroscopy has both the sensitivity and selectivity to identify incipient carious lesions, but the presence of a surface layer with a relatively high mineral content could complicate the analysis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Human dental enamel
- Micro-Raman spectroscopy