The dental cone beam CT is a unique kind of x-ray equipment which is used when regular 2 D x-rays are not sufficient. The CT, often called “cat,” stands for Computed Tomography. It produces 3 D images of your teeth and bone, even showing the tissues and pathways of the nerves. The use of the 3 D x-rays allow for more accurate and precise treatment planning.
The Merriam-Webster definition of tomography is “a method of producing a three-dimensional image of the internal structures of a solid object (such as the human body).” Many straight-line images taken from various angles are combined by the computer to create this three-dimensional image.
2 D Versus 3D X-Ray
The conventional two-dimensional x-ray is basically shadow casting. In contrast, the three-dimensional x-ray is a non-invasive method of combining two-dimensional x-rays, which allows the teeth and bones to be examined from almost any angle. The computer creates this image and it is truly helpful to the doctor as it allows him to make an even more accurate diagnosis.
Always remember that metal objects such as earrings, glasses, dental appliances, hair pins, and other jewelry, anything metal, has an effect upon three-dimensional x-rays and therefore should be removed.
2 Basic Types of 3 D X-Rays
There are two basic types of 3 D x-rays: cone beam CT and conventional CT. The field of dentistry primarily uses the cone beam CT. It is extremely effective on hard tissue, such as teeth and bone, but also includes soft tissue. It also has much lower radiation exposure. Conventional CT has the added ability to provide more information of the soft tissue, such as nerves, glands, muscles, and lymph nodes. The cone beam rotates around the head 360 degrees and produces several hundred images from different angles which the computer combines. The dentist can then view the object from many angles, and with different magnifications. The health care provider can view the area by enlarging a certain area and even rotate the view. This provides him valuable and more exact information about your oral health than a two-dimensional film.
There are no side-effects from a CT scan. The focused beam reduces scatter radiation and results in a better quality image. It also includes the soft tissue at the same time as hard tissue. The 3 D x-ray provides the health care person much more information to help with diagnosis than the 2 D x-ray. Of course, this procedure is painless, non-invasive, and extremely accurate. The benefit of a proper and accurate diagnosis far outweighs the tad of slightly more radiation.
Placement of Implants with 3 D X-Rays
The 3 D x-ray is extremely helpful in the placement of implants. It makes the width and depth of the bone easily discernible, and the location of the nerve pathways easily found. This yields far better success and comfort with implant placement, and by far, much fewer failures. The patient feels much more secure, at ease, and will be more satisfied. The 3 dimensional x-ray is almost indispensable for placing most implants. The size of the implant and the proper positioning of the implant are paramount to its success and longevity.
The three-dimensional x-ray gives the health care provider very important information which is accurate and makes the diagnosis and treatment planning far more easier. Patients can participate in the diagnosis and truly feel good about the treatment plan. The health care provider can perform the process in only a few short seconds. The patients can easily see and understand why you might elect a certain treatment. They are far more apt to accept the treatment if they can visualize the situation in their mouth. Since all the information is digitalized and kept on the computer, it is simple to store, takes up no room, and can easily be emailed.
3 D x-Rays Help Diagnose Abscessed Teeth
3 D x-rays are great for diagnosing root tip abscesses, quality of the bone as far as height, thickness, and undercuts are concerned, and nerve pathways for implant placement. A three-dimensional x-ray can also help easily diagnose tumors, impactions, root tips, sinuses, and broken teeth.
A modern dental office now should be equipped with a 3 D CT cone beam x-ray.
Life Member American Dental Association, Emeritus Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Association of Implant Dentists.