Physicians have relied on computerized axial tomography scans (CAT) for many years. CAT scans are an X-ray procedure that uses many different X-ray images with the help of computers to generate cross-sectional or even 3-D views of internal organs and structures within the body. A knee replacement surgery, for example, would never be performed without first examining 3-D imaging.
More recently however, dentists have begun to rely on 3-D imaging techniques and 3-D scans to provide them with a detailed view of the teeth, jaw and skull. The advantage that 3-D imaging has over regular dental x-rays is that bone structure, bone quality, tissues, and nerves can be viewed clearly.
3-D scans can be completed in less than half a minute. This means that far less radiation enters the body than if a regular set of X-rays were taken. The main use for 3-D scans is as an aid to plan dental implant treatment and other oral surgery.
Dental implants are the most sophisticated replacement for missing teeth, but have historically proven to be time-consuming to place. 3-D scans vastly reduce the time it takes to place implants by allowing surgical stents to be fabricated for precision implant placement that is customized to the jaw site.
How are 3-D scans used?
3-D scans are advantageous because they allow the dentist to magnify specific areas of the face. In addition, the dentist can easily view cross-sectional “slices” of the jaw, which makes planning treatment easier and faster.
Here are some of the main ways in which 3-D scans are used in dentistry:
Assess the quality of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
Determine where nerves are located.
Diagnose tumors and disease in the early stages.
Measure the quality of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
Pinpoint the most effective placement for implants, including the angle of best fit.
Plan the complete surgical procedure in advance, from start to finish.
Precisely decide on the appropriate size and type of implants.
View exact orientation and position of each tooth.
View impacted teeth.
How are 3-D scans performed?
3-D scans are quick and simple to perform. A Cone Beam Imaging System is at the heart of the 3-D scanner. During the scan, the patient sits stationary on a designated seat. The cone beams are used to take literally hundreds of pictures of the face. These pictures are used to compile an exact 3-D image of the inner mechanisms of the face and jaw. The dentist is able to zoom in on specific areas and view them from alternate angles.
Previous patients report the 3-D scanner is comfortable because they remain in a sitting position at all times. Additionally, the scanner provides an open environment, meaning that claustrophobic feelings are eliminated. The 3-D scan is an incredible tool that is minimizing the cost of dental treatment, reducing treatment time and enhancing the end results of dental surgery, treatment and diagnosis.
If you have questions or concerns about 3-D imaging or scans, please contact our office.