Dental CT scans have changed dental radiographic imaging for the best. They capture high-quality images of the teeth and supporting structures enabling dental professionals to treat patients more effectively. The technology has enabled dental professionals to move from pure diagnosis to planning treatment simulations.

However, an experienced professional must perform a dental CT scan examination, for instance, one who knows the radiation level you need to be exposed to. If your dentist says that you need to undergo this exam, do not fear to ask any questions or air any concerns you have.

At Northridge Dentist, we are dedicated to using advanced dental technology to always provide our patients in Northridge with the highest level of dental care. We’re proud to use dental CT scan technology to achieve the best possible outcome for our patients.

We have qualified dental professionals; therefore, there is nothing to fear. We only carry out this procedure after we have evaluated your situation and determined it is necessary. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have further concerns.

Dental CT Scan Overview

You have probably heard about the standard Computerized Tomography scan, abbreviated as CT scan. A CT scan refers to x-ray images taken from various angles around your body using computer processing to form slices, i.e., cross-sectional images of the blood vessels, soft tissues, and bones in your body. CT-scan images display more detailed info than plain x-rays.

CT scans have many uses, for instance, examining people who have sustained internal injuries from accidents or other kinds of trauma. They are used to visualize almost all body parts, diagnose injuries or diseases, and plan medical, radiation, and surgical treatment.

With the ever-advancing technology, CT scans have found their way into the dentistry field, where they are used in oral surgery, orthodontics, and emergency dentistry.  In dentistry, dental professionals use specialized CT scan technology known as CBCT (Cone Beam Computerized Tomography). This article analyzes this exceptional technology that’s becoming increasingly vital in diagnosing and treating dental diseases.

When your dental professional is undertaking complex treatments like dental implant placement and wants to know what’s underneath your teeth and gum’s surface, he or she can conduct a CT scan. A dental CT scanner is a specifically designed machine that uses x-radiation in a cone beam, generally used in imaging. It is square-shaped and includes either a moveable table so a patient can lie down or an upright chair for sitting during the scanning procedure. A scanner that consists of a chair has a rotating C-arm and an x-ray image intensifier containing an x-ray detector and source.  A machine with a table has a rotating gantry.

The dental CT scan generates a series of images with higher image quality. The images are afterward combined using advanced computerized technology to create a sequence of slices. After this happens, your dentist will then be capable of viewing your face’s, neck’s, and head’s structures in 3D and with the highest percentage of accuracy.

Dental CT scans generally generate a lower degree of radiation compared to the CT scanning machines used in hospitals.

The primary difference between a dental CT scan (CBCT) and the standard dental x-ray is that a CT scan generates 3D images, while a dental x-ray doesn’t. This means your dentist can look inside and around the entire jawbone, tooth, and even the airway. They’re critical in helping the dentist diagnose different dental conditions and assist in treatment planning.

How a CT Scan Works

Dental CT scans are relatively new technology. They generate 3D dental images using a rotating frame fixed onto an x-ray detector and source. Because of the con-shaped source of ionizing radiation directed through the place being examined, dental CTs generate hundreds of planar projection images in only one rotation. Their cone-shaped beam enables them to incorporate the whole field of vision.  This is another aspect in which they differ from traditional medical CT scans, which use a fan-shaped beam that needs stacking single image slices to produce a 3D representation.  Therefore, dental CT imaging is less expensive, simple to use, and safer compared to traditional medical CT scans.

What Dental CT Scans Can Reveal                                               

When your dental professional uses a CT scan, he/she will be capable of accurately plotting where the bone structures are around your nasal cavity, sinuses, and face. This enables him/her to assess any existing disease and plan for any surgical treatment. A dental CT scan does not show as many details as the hospital one. Thus, it can’t be utilized to evaluate the soft tissues’ structures, such as the structures of the lymph nodes, glands, nerves, and muscles.

Uses of a Dental CT Scan Procedure

A dental scan has become more affordable. Due to this fact, so many dental practices are now adopting this advanced technology. They use the scan in addressing complex cases involving:

Dental Implant Placement

Replacing an extracted or missing tooth with an implant involves inserting a toot replacement into the jawbone. Most dental implants are small screw-shaped titanium cylinders that serve as artificial tooth roots. A dental CT scan is used during the diagnostic phase of implants. It allows for accurate visualization and location of essential structures like sinuses, canals, and the precise teeth position in the jawbone, all critical in planning implant placement.

Additionally, most CT scanner software installations communicate directly with dental implant software platforms and applications. This enables your dental professional to virtually place an implant before the surgical stage; all performed on the computer.

Dental implants are made with different widths and lengths. Thus, by using the 3D images that the CT scan generates, your dentist will be able to plan the exact width and length of every dental implant with outright precision and clarity.

In certain instances, the resulting CT scanning is then exported to CADCAM software that then provides your dentist with a physical surgical implant guide. The guide will be fit over your natural teeth and have a hole through which the implant is placed. The hole will be at the exact angle that your dentist needs to drill to fix the implant. This enables the placement of dental implants to be highly accurate.

In general, a dental CT scan increases the implant placement success by allowing the exact determination of where to place the implants apart from helping the dentists know precisely what the area looks like.

Orthognathic Jaw Surgery

A CT scan is tremendously useful when both orthognathic jaw surgery and orthodontic tooth movement may be required to treat a difficult malocclusion. It is also helpful when other ailments of the jawbone are best evaluated in 3D. The CT scan image shows fixation screws and bars in place after orthognathic surgery.

Orthodontic Problems

When your teeth are straightened orthodontically, they have to be moved through the bone that binds them to the jaw. The orthodontist (a dentist specializing in the growth, development, and movement of teeth) must know when and where to move them. This makes it essential to have correct info about the teeth and jaws’ position relative to the facial skeleton, as well as the growth and development stage. A scan avails this information in 3D, telling the orthodontist how and where they can safely and effectively move the teeth to realign the bite.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disease

A CT scan can provide 3D info for diagnosing and treating facial pain by viewing the jaw joints (TMJs), sinuses, airway (windpipe), and teeth, all in a single scan. It provides a unique insight into the disease (pathology) of the jaw joints and the associated structures during functional jaw movements.

Sleep Apnea

Imaging of the windpipe, nose, and mouth is also proving useful in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition in which your tongue and other soft tissues at the back of your mouth block the airway during sleep.

Root Canal Treatment

During a root canal procedure, the endodontist (root canal expert) or dentist is required to extract the inner tooth pulp tissue that has been infected then replace it with a sterilized filling material. Some high-resolution CT scanners even enable dentists to look into the teeth’s root canals in 3D to see their exact branches and shape and establish exactly where the infection is located.

Other ways  a dental CT scan is useful are:

  • It helps in planning surgical extraction of impacted wisdom teeth
  • it is helpful in cephalometric analysis
  • it helps in reconstructive surgery
  • Aids in determining tooth orientation and bone structure

Preparing for the Dental CT Scan Procedure

It will make you happy to know that there’s very little you need to do in preparation for your scan. The dental professional needs to obtain a clear sight of your face, neck, and head during the scanning procedure. Therefore any object that would interfere with imaging must be removed. These items include jewelry, tongue piercing, earrings, facial or nose piercings, spectacles, necklaces, hairpins or grips, removable dental devices, hearing aids, etc.

We suggest that you do not visit your dentist putting on any of these objects apart from the detachable dental appliances. Kindly have any of your dental devices on when going for your appointment since your oral surgeon or dentist might want to examine them as well. You should always mention it to your oral surgeon or dentist if there’s any chance that you are expectant.

How the Procedure Works

During a CT examination, the gantry or C-arm rotates around your head in a complete 360-degree rotation while taking numerous images from various angles. The images are then reconstructed to generate one 3D image.

The x-ray detector and source are fixed on opposite sides of the revolving gantry or C-arm and rotate simultaneously. The x-ray detector can produce anywhere between a hundred and fifty and two hundred high-resolution 2D images in one rotation. The images are then digitally pieced together to create a 3D image that provides your oral surgeon or dentist with valuable info about your craniofacial and oral health.

What Happens During The Scan?

Your oral surgeon or dentist will ask you to lie down on the examination table, sit on the examination chair, or stand based on the kind of CT scanner being utilized. They’ll position you, so the area that is to be scanned is at the beam’s center. For instance, if you are to do the procedure while standing, the oral surgeon/dentist will simply ask you to stand in the marked zone before the scanner. Then you hold on to the bars before you and guides are put in place to enable your head to remain still. The scanner will then rotate around the head, capturing a complete series of images that the software will rearrange into a 3D image.

If you are lying down or standing, your dental professional will ask you to stay still as the x-ray detector revolves around you for 360 degrees rotation. This generally could take between twenty to forty seconds for a full spin (also known as a complete mouth x-ray whereby the whole dental structures and mouth are imaged) and lower than ten seconds for a scan that centers on a given area of the mandible or maxilla. This entire process is also completely noninvasive.

You won’t feel pain during and after the CT examination. You’ll be capable of returning to your usual activities immediately after the procedure is complete. Your radiologist, dentist, or oral surgeon will look over the images after the process. They could discuss those results with you in person or communicate them to your referring dentist or physician.

Risks Associated With Dental CT Scans

CBCT scans are generally safe. To assess the risks, let’s look at the following:

How Safe a Dental CT Scan Is

The radiation dose for a dental CT scan is by far lower compared to the conventional CT scan you would undergo in a hospital department. However, their x-rays radiation level is higher than what you would be subjected to from the regular x-ray machine. Therefore, your dental professional will try keeping the frequency at which you have the scan to a minimum.

Note that older people (those above 60 years old) have a reduced radiation exposure risk since their teeth are less sensitive to the effects. And if you’re pregnant, ensure you mention that to your dental professional as they could then make different arrangements or modify the scan.

A Dental CT Scan Is Highly Unlikely to Cause Cancer

One or a few dental CT scans is unlikely to lead to cancer since the radiation dose isn’t high enough. This is especially true in older people and adults. However, the fact that there is a given degree of radiation exposure means there is a slight possibility of cancer. If you’ve undergone recent scans, you ought to mention it to your dental professional so they can be mindful of the dose when deciding if and when you should do a further dental CT scan.

How Metal Affects a Dental Ct Scan

An ex-ray works by traveling through matter, generating images of different densities. The dense the object that the x-ray is trying to travel through, the darker the generated image. Therefore, soft tissues are virtually invisible, while a bone is generated as a white area. Since metal doesn’t permit x-rays to pass through, they will conceal the bone (which the dentist ought to see) behind the metal structure.

Due to this fact, you should remove jewelry or other metal objects from the face, neck, or head before the scan.

Children Are Highly Sensitive to Radiation than Adults

Since minors are more sensitive to radiation, they should undergo dental CT scanning only if it’s essential for making a diagnosis. They also shouldn’t undergo repeated CT examinations unless it is necessary. CT scans in minors always have to be conducted with a low-dose technique.

Wearing Full Plastic Dentures During a Neck Dental CT Scan

There shouldn’t be any adverse effect on the resulting CT image should you put on full plastic dentures. However, you may sometimes be required to remove them before the scan. It all depends on the kind of image the dentist wants. If you put on full dentures, we advise that you discuss that with your dental professional.

Advantages of a Dental CT Scan

The popularity of CT scan technology in dentistry has rapidly grown since it has introduced 3D images, making it valuable for dentists specializing in dental implant procedures and reconstructive surgeries. These are the various significant benefits of CT scanning technology:

Accuracy and Better Image Quality

The dental CT scanner focuses on a particular spot, enabling dentists or oral surgeons to analyze the exact area they want, for instance, if it is a tooth’s root. The focused x-ray beam reduces the scattering of radiation, leading to better image quality. A 3D image’s capabilities mean the dentist or oral surgeon can view what is happening in your mouth from various angles for a definitive diagnosis and a full evaluation.

A Lower Radiation Dose

A dental CT scanner utilizes a lower radiation dose than the standard CT scan. With it, no radiation remains in your body after the scanning procedure. But as we mentioned, it’s still critical that if you are pregnant or suspect that you are, you should inform your oral surgeon or dentist before the procedure so they can take necessary precautions.

Images Soft Tissues and Bone At the Same Time

Unlike traditional dental x-rays, a CT scan can scan both soft tissues and bones simultaneously and easily. The scan provides a lot of info than the conventional dental x-ray, enabling the oral surgeon or dentist to develop a more exact treatment plan.

Painless and Quick

A complete-mouth scan usually takes between twenty and forty seconds, while the oral surgeon or dentist requires less than ten seconds to scan a given area. An oral surgeon or dentist can produce hundreds of images in one scan, enabling him/her to obtain a detailed view of your teeth and mouth.  Every scan can generate several angles and views that the oral surgeon or dentist could manipulate to have a full evaluation. A CT scan is also painless, accurate, and noninvasive.

Other benefits of a CT scan include:

  • It helps dentists know the jawbone’s precise dimensions and shape, enabling them to be more accurate during the dental implant surgical procedure.
  • Dentists can diagnose abnormal lesions that can indicate severe tumors, cysts, and bone cancers.
  • It helps dentists to see precisely where an infection lies, which can provide them with info about whether or not a tooth is broken beyond repair or what can be done to help it heal.
  • Sleep apnea is a disorder related to several health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Treating it means managing these conditions.
  • X-rays utilized in dental CT scans do not have immediate side effects.
  • Dentists can use an optical and dental CT scan to develop a complete virtual model of your bones, teeth, and soft tissues. This helps them to design the correct bite, lowering the risk of misaligned dental implants.

CT and Insurance Coverage

Whether your CT scan is covered by insurance or not depends on your insurance company and the type of plan. If you need to undergo the scan for a documented medical reason and not a dental purpose, the scan’s cost will generally be covered. If you must obtain the CT scan for dental purposes, many medical insurance plans won’t provide coverage. However, separate dental insurance is an alternative option.

Most CT scans are categorized under medical guidelines and qualify for reimbursement through medical insurance. Whereas submitting to CT scans for dental insurance reimbursement is a new concept, more insurance providers have recognized 3D teeth imaging as the standard of care for most dental diagnoses and procedures. Thus, they’re providing reimbursement.

However, dental CT scans are generally less costly compared to other imaging technologies. Their typical cost ranges from $100 to $500.

Contact a Dentist Near Me Qualified in Dental CT-Scan Examination

Our experienced team at Northridge Dentist keeps up-to-date with the latest advancements in dentistry, including CT scanning technology. Treatments have never been as accurate and successful as they’re in this modern era; therefore, there’s no need to keep living with any unwanted dental condition. Call us today at 818-875-0216 to set up a consultation and kick off your journey to lasting oral health and a beautiful smile.