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Dr. David Ward | Dental 3D X-Rays: Great Benefit for Many Patients in Big Spring


1500 Scurry St.
Big Spring TX 79720

(432) 267-1677

Family, Sedation & Laser Dentistry; Orthodontics; Implants

Dental 3D X-Rays: Great Benefit for Many Patients


Dental 3D X-Rays: Great Benefit for Many Patients

If you want or need dental implants, wisdom teeth removed, orthodontics, a molar root canal, or have sleep apnea, then this article is for you. Think about the world around us. Photographs can show a good representation, but they are only 2 dimensions. Have you ever seen a photo of the Grand Canyon that did it justice? The reason is that one has never been taken even by the most artistic photographer. The dimension of depth can be hinted at, but can never be captured in a 2D photo.

Medical surgeons have been working with 3D imaging for many years. In fact, if they did not use 3D imaging for many surgeries, they would be below the “standard of care”. The downside to these scans is significant radiation. A medical CT scanner is a huge piece of equipment that you are put into and a great deal of information is obtained as the radiation “fans” through the patient.

3D imaging has now come to dentistry in the form of Digital Cone Beam CT Scanners. As the name implies, a “cone” of diagnostic radiation is focused into a small area. A great deal of 3D diagnostic data is obtained with a very small amount of radiation with these state of the art units that are no bigger than lower tech panoramic/cepholometric x-ray units.

The newest of these 3D dental units produce even less radiation to the patient than conventional 2D full mouth x-rays! The dental specialists including oral surgeons, orthodontists, and some endodontists (root canal specialists) have been the first to embrace this technology. Some advanced general dentists now are making the jump to 3D x-rays.

So what patients benefit the most from 3D diagnostic information? Implants: Many patients want dental implants, by far the best replacement for missing teeth. Implants must be surgically placed into the jaw bone with precision. Due to bone loss after tooth loss, major nerve location, and proximity to the maxillary sinus there is often little margin for error. Using 2D x-rays and physical “mapping” of the area, it is possible to put implants into many areas. However 3D not only gives us much better data, it even allows CT “guided surgery” where precision is critical. This will be the subject of a future article.

Wisdom teeth: Many people need wisdom teeth removed due to the fact that most people don’t have room in their mouths for them to come into the mouth in proper position. The upper wisdom teeth often lay up against the floor of the maxillary sinus. The roots of the lower wisdom teeth are often very close and sometimes even wrap around the major nerve and blood vessel that go through the jaw. 3D imaging lets us see exactly what the relationship is between the wisdom teeth and these structures that need to be avoided. Root canals: Teeth often have multiple areas (canals) of nerve and blood vessel in their nerves. A successful root canal treatment involves cleaning and filling of all of these canals (3 or more in molars) in the roots. Root canal treatment usually succeeds without 3D by the dentist knowing the normal anatomy of the tooth and then looking inside the tooth for extra canals. A 3D image lets us know exactly how many canals and where they are, thus improving the chance of success.

Orthodontics: 3D lets us see more accurately where the teeth are in relation to the jaws and head. This is especially important when the dentist will be orthodontically pulling in an impacted tooth in the front of the mouth.

Sleep Apnea: Most people don’t know it, but dental appliances that reposition the jaw forward during sleep are FDA approved and very effective for treating sleep apnea. For mild or moderate apnea, they often let the patient avoid CPAP, which less that 50% of patients can tolerate. They are not ideal for severe apnea, but much better than nothing with is what happens with those who can’t sleep with CPAP. 3D lets us accurately measure the airway space to screen for possible apnea in our patients, and then helps us design the appliance to be effective.

In closing, most dentists do not have 3D capability with Cone Beam CT technology and that’s OK. For doing routine care it’s really not needed and is not required to meet “standard of care”. For many more advanced procedures though, it is of great benefit and will become “standard of care” in the future.

Dr. David Ward practices comprehensive general dentistry in Big Spring. He has achieved Fellowships in the Academy of GP Orthodontics , Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, and American Dental Implant Association, and Mastership in the International Dental Implant Association .

Big Spring Dentist | Dental 3D X-Rays: Great Benefit for Many Patients. David Ward is a Big Spring Dentist.