Since the beginning of modern dental practice, the only way in which dentists have been able to treat cavities has been with the use of dental fillings. In this conventional approach, the decayed tooth structure must be removed with the use of a dental drill and replaced with using a dental filling. There are some draw backs to doing this: 1) in order to remove the decayed tooth structure, we almost always have to remove healthy tooth structure too, and 2) no matter what we do fillings sometimes need to be replaced over time due to break down, new cavity formation, or esthetic reasons and this replacement will often lead to the removal of additional tooth structure potentially causing harm to the overall structure of the tooth or even the nerve of the tooth.
With the advent of new dental technologies and increasing amounts of research completed on the treatment of dental decay, there are now new options that do not require the use of a drill. When a cavity is small and confined to the outer layer of the tooth enamel, a product called, Icon®, can be used. The Icon® treatment has been available in the United States since 2009 and offers a mechanism to halt the progression of decay and either prevent the need for a dental filling, or at least delay that need for several years.
Icon® works very well on cavities that are between your teeth, often only identified when visualized on a radiograph. Prior to the Icon® treatment, a spacer is slid between the teeth that allows for a very small gap to form between the teeth over the course of five days or so.
On the day of the treatment, the spacer is removed and a rubber dam is used to shelter your teeth from the rest of your mouth. No numbing or drilling are needed for the procedure. In a single visit, several teeth can be treated simultaneously and you can eat or drink whatever you would like following the procedure.
After the treatment is completed we simply monitor the treated surfaces for growth in size with standard yearly radiographs. As long as the areas do not grow substantially, there is no need for further treatment. One recent study showed that with use of the Icon® treatment and good oral hygiene at home, the need for a filling can be reduced by 86% over the course of two years! (1) What this means for the patient is that we can provide care that can either prevent or delay the need for drilling on a tooth!
Another great use for Icon® is to remove “white spot” stains on front teeth that are left behind after having braces. The process is very similar for when we treat back teeth, however there is no need for a spacer. Again, this process does not require any drilling. The same material is applied over the white spot areas and instant results can be seen following the treatment.
Icon® has been a wonderful product that has helped us serve our patients for nearly a decade. Schedule your appointment to see if you are a candidate for this revolutionary treatment!
For more information on this treatment, the ADA has just come out with a resource on resin-infiltration that you can find here.
- Chatzimarkou S, Koletsi D, Kavvadia K. The effect of resin infiltration on proximal caries lesions in primary and permanent teeth. A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. J Dent. 2018;77:8-17.