Significant differences between the optical spectra taken from sound regions of teeth and carious regions have been observed. These differences appear both in absorption and in laser induced fluorescence spectra. Excitation by the 488 nm line of an argon ion laser beam showed a peak in the emission intensity around 553 nm for the sound dental material while the emission peak from the carious region was red-shifted by approximately 40 nm. The relative absorption of carious region was significantly higher at 488 nm; however its fluorescence intensity peak was lower by an order of magnitude compared to the sound tooth. Implications of these results for a safe, reliable and early detection of dental caries are discussed.