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3-D Imaging (CT Scan)


What is 3D imaging?

3D imaging refers to cone beam computed tomography (CBCT).  This is a special type of CT scan offered at Louisiana Oral & Implant Surgery which provides a 3-dimensional view of your teeth and jaws which can help with diagnosis and treatment planning.  


What is the difference between 3D imaging and traditional dental x-rays?

Traditional x-rays provide a 2-dimensional (2D) image.  This can limit diagnosis and surgical planning in some cases. Many times a 2D image does not allow me to see the exact relationship of important structures (such as nerves and tooth roots) to each other before surgery.  This is because these structures appear overlapped using regular dental x-rays.  CT scans also allow for more accurate distance measuring on the images.  Being able to accurately measure exact distances with a CT can can help avoid important structures during surgery. In select cases, 3D imaging can result in better and more predictable treatment for patients.  


How much radiation is a cone beam CT scan?

The radiation dose from today’s CBCT units is extremely low.  I will try to give some examples to put things into perspective regarding the radiation dose of a CBCT obtained at Louisiana OIS.  First, a cone beam CT scan is many times less radiation than a CT scan at a hospital. Radiation dose for CT scans is usually measured in mirco-severts.  The actual dose will vary depending on the size of the field of view and resolution of the scan, but a typical CT scan at Louisiana OIS will result in approximately 60 micro-severts of radiation.  By comparison, the dose from a scan at a hospital or imaging center can be in the thousands. Another useful comparison is to that of the annual background radiation dose- the dose of radiation to which the typical American is exposed annually from sources such as the sun.  According to the US nuclear regulatory commision, this dose is somewhere around 310 micro-severts. In other words, you are exposed to more than 5 times more radiation in a year just from being alive than you are from the average CT taken at Louisiana Oral & Implant Surgery.  


Does every procedure require a CT scan (3D imaging)?

No.  In many instances, a traditional 2D X-ray (also offered at Louisiana OIS) will be adequate.  In many cases, it is clear from a 2D image alone that critical structures (such as nerves) are well-away from the surgical site.  In these instances, I will not recommend 3D imaging.


When might 3D imaging be necessary?

The most common cases for which 3D imaging can help with surgical planning would be implants, wisdom teeth, and expose and bond procedures.  For implants, 3D imaging can help determine if there is enough bone for a certain size of implant as well as help avoid important structures during surgery.  For wisdom teeth that appear particularly close to a nerve, 3D imaging may be necessary to determine the exact relationship of the tooth root to the nerve. For some expose and bond cases, it is not obvious if the tooth is impacted on the tongue side or the lip side of the mouth and 3D imaging will determine this.

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