Reflected near-infrared light versus bite-wing radiography for the detection of proximal caries: A multicenter prospective clinical study conducted in private practices

Zvi Metzger*, Dana G. Colson, Peggy Bown, Timo Weihard, Ingo Baresel, Tim Nolting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The aim of the present prospective multicenter clinical study was to compare the detection of proximal caries with near-infrared light reflection (NILR) versus bitewing radiography (BWR). Materials and methods: Intraoral scans were performed on 100 patients in five dental clinics using an intraoral scanner (iTero Element 5D, Align Technology, Tempe, AZ, USA) that includes a near-infrared light source (850 nm) and sensor. Reflected near-infrared light images of posterior teeth were used by the individual dentists to detect proximal caries and the results were compared to the BWRs. In a total of 3499 proximal surfaces of molars and premolars which were examined, 223 carious lesions were detected by BWR, while NILR detected 549 carious lesions. Caries detection using both methods was also done by an expert team of five dentists, highly experienced in NILR image interpretation, who used the same sets of clinically-obtained data. Sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy were calculated for caries detection by both the dentists and the expert team. Fifty-nine of the detected carious lesions were clinically treated and the observations during caries excavation were compared with those done with NILR and BWR. Statistical analysis to compare between NILR and BWR diagnosis was performed using non-parametric two-sided McNemar's Chi-Square test with the significance level set at p < 0.05. Kappa coefficients were calculated to assess the level of agreement between the two caries detection methods. Results: Accuracy of NILR detection of early enamel lesions was 88% and that of carious lesions involving the dentino-enamel junction (DEJ) was 97%. Accuracy was found to be higher at 96% and 99%, respectively, when the same data were examined by the expert team. Direct observation during caries-excavation treatment suggested that NILR detected early enamel lesions that were not detectable with BWR alone. Conclusions: Within the limitations of the present study, NILR was more sensitive than BWR in detecting early enamel lesions and comparable to BWR in detecting lesions that involved the DEJ. Clinical relevance: Reflected near-infrared light images that are generated simultaneously with 3D intra-oral scanning may be used reliably for detection, screening, and monitoring of proximal caries, thus potentially minimizing the traditional use of ionizing radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103861
JournalJournal of Dentistry
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Bitewing radiography
  • Caries detection
  • Intraoral scan
  • Near-infrared
  • Near-infrared light reflection
  • Proximal caries


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