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 dental imaging. However, most people likely aren’t even aware of what 3D dental technology is — that’s how new it is!
What is 3D dental imaging? Why is 3D dentistry better, and how does this affect you, the patient?
The short answer is this: 3D dental imaging is well on its way to becoming the new standard of dental care. This incredible technological advancement allows dentists to see your mouth in a way never previously possible with X-ray or medical CT scan technology. 3D dental imaging allows them to see your teeth and skull, diagnose any problems and provide more effective treatment for you.
To better understand what 3D dental imaging is, what it has done for the dental industry and what it can do for you and your dental care, we’ll walk you through the incredible machine that makes it possible.
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, CBCT machines are now becoming more commonplace among technologically up-to-date offices across the world.
3D dentistry, 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.
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:
But what are the advantages of using 3D dentistry 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 dentistry for patients include the following:
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.
The 3D dental imaging process starts with taking a scan of the lower half of the face to create an image. The most widely recognized and technologically advanced method of completing this scan is with a cone-beam computed tomography machine, also known as a CBCT machine. This machine takes a scan of the mouth using a series of small beams of radiation, each of which produces a digital image. This series of images is formed, collected and compiled, at which point they can be converted into a three-dimensional model and used for a variety of dental purposes and procedures.
3D dentistry can be used for simple diagnostics, showing angles and features of the teeth that may not have been visible with a traditional 2D X-ray scan. However, this 3D CBCT scan can also be used to develop a complete 3D model of the skull and teeth, which can be used for complex diagnostics and comparative data. This is especially important for identifying degenerative conditions or potential problem areas down the road.
In addition to this diagnostic use, 3D dental imaging can now be integrated with digital impressions of teeth. CEREC technology allows a dentist to take digital impressions of the teeth with extreme accuracy. These digital impressions, which are used to create dental restorations, can then be merged with the 3D CBCT scan. This allows for a seamless planning of complex treatment such as dental implants, customized sleep appliances and corrective devices. This level of integration utilizing CEREC and CBCT is unmatched in the dental industry.
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 CBCT units in North America and Europe is experiencing a steady rise as more people discover the incredible benefits of CBCT 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 CBCT units safely, while others are theorizing potential new uses for the technology in science and medical research.
This is primarily due to the unique way in which these machines work.
The CBCT machine is essentially a digital X-ray scanner mounted on a rotating arm. The machine uses a rotating X-ray source, which emits a cone-shaped beam of radiation through the head, or alternative area of interest, onto an X-ray detector on the opposite side. The X-ray source and detector rotate around a fulcrum located directly above the patient, positioned so the head is at the center of the system. The system takes anywhere from 150 to 600 projection images over the course of a few seconds, taking the images in either a complete or partial arc, depending on the focus.
A more detailed description of the process is as follows:
This unique process results in an extremely useful digital model, which can be referenced for diagnostic and treatment purposes. It also sets it apart from previous methods as a more advanced option.
The CBCT process is quite different from a medical CT scan or a traditional X-ray, primarily due to the way in which the images are collected and processed.
Medical CT scans use a fan-shaped X-ray beam that runs through the body, and they take these scans in a helical progression throughout the area of interest to develop individual slices of the image in the field of view. This may require multiple passes to get the same image a CBCT machine could get in one, making the CT scan more expensive to use and increasing the patient’s exposure to radiation.
CBCT scans also differ from the traditional dental X-ray. Instead of biting down on uncomfortable intra-oral sensors to capture the entire image of a tooth, the CBCT machine is non-intrusive, maximizing your comfort. Additionally, typical dental X-rays only focus on your teeth, and not on your entire skull or jaw. For more extensive dental surgery or implants, this is simply insufficient. Also, each traditional X-ray picture requires exposure, increasing the time between taking the X-ray and gleaning any meaningful information from it.
The benefits of using a CBCT machine are all indicative of a welcome advancement to dental technology. However, the real question you may ask yourself is how 3D dentistry can improve your dental health.
3D dentistry can provide you with top-of-the-line care previously unheard of for the general population, with imaging that makes dental examination, diagnosis and care much faster and effective, both for you and your dentist. This improvement in care means an extension of the life of your teeth and an improvement in the quality of your implants and crowns.
When it comes to dental technology, AZ Family Dental prides itself on being at the forefront. Our fully functional 3D imaging systems are top-of-the line and are ready to help you with your dental needs.
We are proud to be at the forefront of 3D dentistry with the Orthophos SL-AI. This complete X-ray solution is a non-intrusive CBCT X-ray at the height of 3D imaging technology. Its sharp image quality and incredible imaging software allow 2D and 3D images to be taken with ease.
Outside of our technological focus, AZ Family Dental has provided the Glendale, Peoria and Greater Phoenix areas with the best family, cosmetic and dental implant services around. We have a long and steady history of quality care at a fair price, and we strive every day to maintain that reputation. From your child’s first cleaning to your next root canal, we will be there for you and your family, offering the best service and expert care.
Is your family looking for a quality dentistry service on the cutting-edge of technology? Do you want to learn more about 3D dental imaging? Contact AZ Family Dental today to learn what services we can offer you and your family.