EXPOSED: 3-D Dentistry

dentist holding a panographic dental x-ray film, which shows upper and lower teeth and sinus. He is wearing a pair of white gloves and mask.

X-rays always seem to be a "hot topic" when going in for routine dental appointments, but why is that? Is it the fear of being exposed to radiation? A failure on our part for the lack of education as to why they are a necessity? Or maybe it's simply the fear of "not wanting to know" what could be diagnosed?

Dental x-rays have been around for a number of years, dating all the way back to the late 1890's. Lucky for us, a lot has changed since then! There have been numerous techniques used for capturing these x-rays including the processing of films (2-D imaging), phosphorous plates (2-D imaging), digital sensors (2-D imaging), and now dental CBCTs (3-D imaging). Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) has been utilized in the medical field for a long time. In recent years, dental offices have started to incorporate this technology into their practices as well. Advanced Dental Care Clinic is excited to now offer this technology in our office too!

So what exactly is a CBCT, how much radiation is the patient exposed to, and why is this necessary to have done? These are three common questions people may ask when a CBCT is recommended. A CBCT machine looks similar to the machine that is used to take a panorex x-ray (the x-ray that goes all the way around your head). It is exposed in the same fashion as a panorex and most times you won't notice a difference, until the new x-ray has been produced. Unlike traditional x-rays, a CBCT provides a three-dimensional view of the head, jaw, and mouth.

Next, let's look at radiation levels. Unlike an average medical CT scan (10.mSv), a cone beam (70-128uSv) exposes the patient to much less radiation*(10000 vs 70(to 128)). According to a radiation dosage chart complied by the Mayo Clinic in 2011, the exposed radiation level of one (1) CBCT is the equivalent to the amount of radiation you would receive if living in a brick or stone home for 1 year. To reduce the amount of radiation exposed to during a CBCT, a lead apron (some may have a thyroid collar) is placed on the patient. This helps reduce radiation exposure to other parts of the body.

Why are CBCTs necessary? A CBCT can give us an extremely detailed view of your mouth that we otherwise wouldn't have by just looking with the naked eye or even traditional X-rays. This allows us to "see the whole picture" before diagnosing and recommended treatment. By finding and treating dental problems at an early stage we can save time, money, and discomfort. It also can help prevent more severe health problems. Common examples of dental concerns diagnosed from a CBCT that we may not otherwise be able to see are: small areas of infection between teeth roots , bone destruction from infections such as an abscess or cyst, bone loss due to periodontal (gum) disease, developmental defects, some types of tumors, effects resulting from trauma, sinus infections that is caused by an infected tooth and the position of unerupted teeth in children and adults.

By having the knowledge from a CBCT, it allows us to plan a more precise course of action. For example, when we plan the placement of an implant, we can now visualize a more detailed image of where to place it, how dense the bone is, and what the shape/size of the adjacent teeth are in the area. It also allows us to plan larger treatment cases from start to finish which gives us more accuracy of the outcome and better results. CBCT is used in many other treatments like root canal therapies, Air way analysis, surgeries, orhtodontic treatments, comprehensive prosthodontics and more.

Our office goal for this technology is giving you the most advanced, efficient, and convenient dental care available. We welcome your concerns, encourage your questions, and try to keep you informed about your dental care.

*1,000uSv = 1mSv