Medical technology has been improving at an incredible rate for the past several decades, leading to leaps and bounds in the quality of care for people around the United States. This is especially true for the dental industry. One of the most important and exciting developments in dental diagnostic technology in the past decade has been the advent of 3D dentistry. However, most people likely aren’t even aware of what 3D dentistry is — that’s how new it is!
Dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) is a special type of x-ray equipment used when regular dental or facial x-rays are not sufficient. Your dentist may use this technology to produce three dimensional (3-D) images of your teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways and bone in a single scan.
This procedure requires little to no special preparation. Tell your Oral Surgeon if there’s a possibility you are pregnant. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and leave jewelry at home. You may be asked to wear a gown.
What Is 3D Dentistry?
When we think about visiting the dentist’s office, we often think of bright lights, blue bibs, toothbrushes, picks, drills and bubblegum toothpaste. However, advanced imaging utilizing CBCT technology is slowly but surely making its way into dental offices across the United States. Because of their wide recognition as contributors to quality dental care, cone beam imaging machines are now becoming more commonplace among technologically up-to-date offices across the world.
3D dental imaging, at its most basic, involves developing a digital, 3D image of the mouth and skull. Traditional X-rays only develop a 2D picture of your mouth, while other methods took longer bouts of radiation to create a detailed picture, and were more unpleasant and intrusive to the patient.
3D dental images are most often used for diagnosis and treatment planning. Being able to see the mouth in three dimensions allows the dentist to better and more effectively formulate an approach to treat dental conditions.
What Are the Advantages of 3D Dentistry?
The unique way 3D dentistry works means it offers numerous features found nowhere else in dental technology. This technology has a huge number of advantages over technologies like traditional X-ray and medical CT scans. The following are some of the benefits of 3D dentistry from a diagnostic standpoint:
- Beam Limitation : The size of the primary X-ray beam in 3D CBCT scanners limits the radiation to only the area of interest, reducing the patient’s exposure to radiation as much as possible.
- Short Scan Time : Because the CBCT scans involved in 3D dentistry can acquire all scan images in a single rotation, scan time isn’t much different from a normal scan. This reduces the chance of image defects due to the natural movement of the patient. It also minimizes time spent on the scan.
- Image Accuracy : 3D CBCT imaging has an incredible resolution, allowing for highly accurate imaging and measuring. This means these images can be used to pinpoint the exact location for a dental procedure.
- Image Detail : With a single scan of a CBCT machine, dentists can see much more than a regular X-ray. They can see pathology, infections, nerves, musculature and so much more. This helps dentists see and properly treat dental-caused sinus issues and plan for root canals, implants and extractions. The possibilities are endless with 3D CBCT scans.
- Bone Quality Assessment : 3D CBCT scans can also be used to assess bone quality, which is an important part of evaluating the presence of sufficient bone for implant placement. It is also helpful in determining the size and location of lesions and breaks.
- User-Friendly : 3D dental equipment is very easy to learn, and it’s designed for a trained dentist or dental technician to learn and work with easily.
- Interactive Display : The most important benefit for dental practitioners is the unique ability to demonstrate features in 3D that traditional imaging cannot. The practitioner can reorganize data and magnify and annotate the image.
But what are the advantages of using 3D dental imaging for the patient? As it turns out, the benefits of this machinery are just as extensive for patients as they are for dentists. Some of the benefits of 3D dental imaging for patients include the following:
- Diagnostic Accuracy : Three-dimensional scans can catch problems 2D scans simply can’t by differentiating between many types of tissue. Pathology, infections, and abnormal sinus anatomy and joint dysfunctions can all be properly visualized and identified with 3D CBCT imaging. This means patients are properly diagnosed the first time and can get appropriate help much sooner than they would with previous methods.
- Minimal Radiation Exposure : Repeated prolonged exposure to radiation can cause eye damage, the development of malignancies and other health risks, which is why new medical technologies seek to reduce patient exposure. When compared to traditional medical CT scans, 3D CBCT scans emit substantially less radiation, reducing the dosage up to 98.5%.
- Non-Intrusive : No need to bite down on a mold or piece of plastic. The CBCT can scan your entire head without you needing to do anything. This is especially helpful for patients with particularly sensitive gums or teeth, as well as pediatric patients.
- Lower Cost : Going to a third-party imaging center for a medical CT scan can be extremely expensive. Bringing in a 3D CBCT dental imaging device provides all the technology into one place, eliminating the middle-man and saving you money.
- Short Scan Time : A typical 3D CBCT scan takes around ten seconds to complete, meaning your dentist can see and solve problems more quickly than ever. An in-house 3D CBCT scanner at your dentists’ office also means you don’t need to go to a third-party imaging company for a medical CT scan.
A third-party imaging company will likely make you wait days before scheduling your scan, and it could take another few days for them to send your results to your dentist, unnecessarily prolonging the process. All of this can be avoided with an in-house dental 3D CBCT machine.
What Is a CBCT Machine?
The cone-beam computed tomography machine, or the CBCT machine, is widely regarded as the new pinnacle of 3D imaging technology, and it represents the official shift from 2D imaging to 3D imaging. This machine uses a cone-shaped X-ray beam to take pictures of the skull and teeth, and then it uses those pictures, along with robust digital processing software, to reconstruct a 3D image. Provided the settings are correct and the patient does not move during the image-collecting process, this image is extremely accurate, with few, if any, distortions.
Today, cone-beam computed tomography is used in the fields of dentistry, radiotherapy and mammography, among others, and it’s used as a safer and more effective alternative to medical CT scans. The number of dental practices, dental and otherwise, using cone beam imaging units in North America and Europe is experiencing a steady rise as more people discover the incredible benefits of cone beam imaging technology. This growth is only hindered by the cost of implementing the system.
Along with this steady growth of implementation, professionals around the world are in the process of developing new standards and applications for this technology. Currently, worldwide dentistry organizations are developing standards of practice for using cone beam imaging units safely, while others are theorizing potential new uses for the technology in science and medical research.
What Are The Benefits of CBCT?
Being able to make diagnoses was an expected benefit. But in regards to your question, there have been important benefits that were unexpected. Here are the ones that deserve particular attention:
- Enhanced planning : This has been invaluable in a number of situations, but it has been especially useful when predicting how long orthodontic treatment will take when dealing with impacted teeth.
- More confident diagnosing : The information gathered allows me to make an on-the-spot diagnosis to keep the momentum of the case moving forward.
- New or different treatment options than originally thought : The data can provide the patient with the option of an implant, for example. For impacted teeth, we’re able to see more than 2-D alone, resulting in less invasive procedures for the patient.
- Endodontic game changer : CBCT is invaluable when managing complex endodontic cases, assessing failures, and searching for missed canals.
- Wow factor : Our patients are repeatedly amazed when presented with a three-dimensional view of themselves. The treatment acceptance level for these cases has increased dramatically.
- Changing the way return on investment (ROI) is measured : The interesting thing about cone beam imaging is the fact that you’re not getting your return from charging for scans. The largest ROI is actually everything in this list. Viewing the ROI as the number of scans needed to pay off the machine would be a very narrow-minded way of looking at it.
- Relieving years of pain for a patient : The patient had dealt with unexplained pain on the upper left quadrant of his mouth for years. He had met with his physician and an ENT to determine if it was an infection, had a number of root canals performed (and re-treated), and even had teeth Nos. 12 and 14 extracted.
We look forward to providing families with exceptional care and advanced treatment options. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Falender contact our Indianapolis, IN, dental office today by calling (317) 900-4535. Our office welcomes patients in and around Indianapolis, IN, including Fishers, Lawrence, Greenfield, and the surrounding Southern Indianapolis communities.