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3.2 Stages in Caries Lesion Severity and Activity

Non-Cavitated Caries Lesions

Non-cavitated caries lesion.
Image courtesy of
Margherita Fontana, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Non-cavitated caries lesion.
Image courtesy of
Carlos Gonzalez Cabezas, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Non-cavitated subsurface caries lesion.
Image courtesy of
Margherita Fontana, D.D.S., Ph.D.

A non-cavitated caries lesion (also sometimes referred to as an early lesion, an incipient lesion, or a white spot lesion) is a demineralized lesion without evidence of cavitation. As the lesion progresses, the outer surface, which is in contact with plaque and is protected by the salivary pellicle, is exposed to cycles of demineralization and remineralization, and it regains some minerals (including fluoride) and becomes less prone to further demineralization. At this stage, the demineralization process can be reversed or arrested via biochemical means (e.g., fluoride use), mechanical means (e.g., dental sealant placement), or both.

In its earliest stages of development, a non-cavitated lesion is not visible to the unaided eye, but it can be detected with aids (e.g., a quantitative light-induced fluorescence instrument). As the lesion progresses, it becomes visible to the unaided eye. Typically, lesions appear white at this stage, but they can also be brown, yellow, or a mixture of white, brown, and yellow.