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What is 3D Imaging, and Why is it So Important?

You may hear some of these terms from any of our team members at Designer Smiles and wonder what it is we are talking about.

  • 3D imaging
  • 3D scan
  • 3D x-ray
  • CBCT
  • Cone Beam

These terms all refer to the same thing: a three-dimensional x-ray called Cone Beam Computed Tomography.

This advanced dental imaging technology has revolutionized dentistry in so many ways.

More Information, Less Radiation

To put it succinctly, a cone beam gives us vastly more information about your teeth and jaws than any other type of x-ray today.  At the same time, it requires, and therefore exposes patients to, much less radiation than previous forms of x-ray images.

This means that our imaging is safer than ever!

In about three to five seconds, our Prexion cone beam machine gathers more information about your mouth than all of the historical types of x-rays combined.  In the past, dentists had to extrapolate three-dimensional knowledge out of a two-dimensional picture.  Today, we can obtain the complete picture with CBCT technology.

How CBCT Imaging Leads to Better Dental Care

The more we know, the better we are able to diagnose, treat, and follow up on dental problems.

For example, in the past, we could diagnose teeth grinding (bruxism) by seeing signs of damage on your teeth.  With a 3D image from cone beam technology, we might see a constriction in the airway causing sleep disordered breathing (in some cases, sleep apnea), which is one of the root causes of teeth grinding.  This discovery gives us the option to treat the root cause of the problem, rather than just treating the symptom.

Obviously, treating the cause of a problem leads to more successful treatments and better follow-up care than simply treating a symptom.

How We Use CBCT Imaging

There are countless ways that three-dimensional imaging improves our ability to care for our patients.  There are three specific ways that we use it to provide excellent dental care for our patients at Designer Smiles.

Comprehensive Oral Evaluation

At Designer Smiles, we interpret the word “comprehensive” to encompass everything we can possibly see, know, and understand about your mouth, teeth, and jaws.  Our version of comprehensive includes 3D imaging because it is the technology currently capable of providing the most information.  A comprehensive oral evaluation with a CBCT image has these advantages:

  • Closer assessment of existing dental work like root canals
  • More detailed visualization of tooth infections
  • Ability to measure exact size of dental abnormalities like cysts and tumors
  • Identification of a difficult-to-find nerve for anesthesia purposes

Airway Evaluation and Risk Assessment

As we stated in the example earlier about better diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care, we can evaluate the airway with cone beam technology.  There are three reasons our dentists look at airways.

  1. We include the airway in our evaluation of the teeth, mouth, and jaws because the airway is usually influenced by the size and shape of the upper and lower jaws.
  2. We also include airway evaluation because airway problems often lead to dental problems.
  3. The final reason we closely assess airways is because one of the treatment options for sleep-disordered breathing is a dental appliance.

Implant Planning

While all the benefits of three-dimensional imaging are equally wonderful, implant planning is our favorite.  By having a 3D view of the bone, we are able to get precise measurements of the site for a dental implant.  Precision is essential in implant placement.

Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren use CBCT images to plan multiple aspects of the implant placement process.

  • Which brand and type of implant is best for your specific needs. All dental implants are not alike.
  • The size implant that will best fit the available bone and meet the functional needs of the replaced tooth
  • Any angulation of the implant due to the exact measurements of the bone available
  • Important anatomical structures, like nerves and sinus cavities, that could impact implant position

This detailed planning process that takes place before your implant surgery makes your surgery visit shorter and simpler.  It also gives you the greatest long-term success rate for your implant.

More Questions about 3D Imaging?

Are you interested in dental implants, airway evaluation, or just the most thorough dental evaluation of your life?  Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They can answer all of your questions about 3D imaging and cone beam technology.

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