Dental CT scan: why and how it is done

A dental CT scan is a study that allows the dentist to obtain precise information about the structures of the mouth. With it, diagnoses and treatments are more accurate.

Last update: 03 October, 2022

In dentistry, as in other specialties of medicine, new technologies provide professionals with accurate information about their patients. We tell you about dental CT, a cutting-edge tool that provides reliable data on the oral cavity.

With this complementary exam, dentists can make a more accurate diagnosis and plan treatment carefully. Thus, the chances of success of therapeutics increase considerably.

With dental CT Faster, more predictable and efficient results are achieved. Find out what this study of the mouth is all about.

What does dental CT consist of?

Dental CT is the abbreviated way of defining the Computed axial tomography. It is a device that allows to obtain three-dimensional images of the patient’s teeth and jaws, using x-rays.

With this study it is possible to obtain images of the dental, nervous and bony structures of the upper and lower jaws in a single exploration. Taking advantage of this information, the dentist can carefully plan a treatment before carrying it out.

It is important not to confuse dental CT with panoramic radiography, which is commonly used in dentistry. This last study, although it also provides information on the teeth and the bones of the mouth, does not do so in the three dimensions of the tomography.

Dental CT is not routinely used. but in cases that require a very precise analysis of the craniofacial area. It is a very useful tool in the field of implantology. Although, as we will tell you, it also has other applications.

The radiation exposure from this type of scanner is greater than from normal dental x-rays. In any case, it is a safe, simple and fast test.

Why and when is dental CT performed?

Dental CT allows precise three-dimensional images to be obtained of the patient’s entire mouth. With this, the dentist or maxillofacial surgeon can accurately plan the treatment, before carrying it out.

In any case, its realization is not always necessary. We tell you the situations that deserve your indication:

  • Implant placement: Dental CT allows the bone structure to be studied and the location and exact position where the implant is to be placed in the bone tissue to be determined.
  • Bone regeneration: Before placing an implant, the surgeon must ensure that there is adequate quantity and quality of bone to support the screw. Dental CT is used to check the patient’s bone dimension and determine if it is sufficient or if it requires an intervention to increase it. In the event that a maxillary sinus lift or graft is needed, the study will provide the necessary data to plan the subsequent intervention. In short, it improves the expected prognosis of surgery.
  • Wisdom teeth included: Dental CT helps determine the relationship of the included molars to other important anatomical structures, such as the inferior alveolar nerve. It also helps evaluate the best approach to remove these pieces and reduce adverse effects.
  • Canines included: With this study, the position of the canine can be determined and the best therapeutic alternative can be planned. It is useful if the piece is going to be exposed with surgery and repositioned with orthodontics.
  • Diagnosis of jaw diseasesbony structures of the face, nose, sinuses, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
  • Detection, measurement and planning of treatment of tumors or cysts in the jaws.
  • To locate the origin of any pain or pathology difficult to diagnose.
Panoramic radiographs are more common in dentistry than CT. The results in the images are not the same between both studies.

How is a dental CT performed?

The dental CT test is very simple and fast; it only takes a few seconds and you can know the results instantly. It is carried out in a special X-ray room by qualified personnel.

Some dental clinics have this type of technology in their facilities. If this is not the case, the patient must go to a center authorized for these studies and then return to their dentist with the results.

The procedure is very similar to that used to take panoramic radiographs. No prior preparation is necessary.

At the time of the study, earrings, necklaces, glasses, dentures, hairpins and any other metallic objects should be removed. In addition, it will be necessary to protect yourself from radiation by wearing a lead apron.

The professional in charge of performing the dental CT places the patient in the exact position so that the device takes the appropriate images of the mouth. This will require the person to sit in the chair or lie down on the exam table, depending on the type of device used.

The patient is then positioned so that the area of ​​interest is centered and asked to lie very still during the scan. The X-ray source and detector rotate around the person. In general, the test does not take more than 20 seconds and during the examination, the patient will not feel any discomfort or symptoms.

It is important to remember that pregnant women should not go for this test. Although the radiation doses used are low, it is preferable to avoid these examinations during pregnancy.

It’s dangerous?

Dental CT may be necessary for the diagnosis and planning of various dental treatments. However, when using x-radiation, many patients wonder if this study carries any health risks.

You should know that the amount of radiation used by this type of scanner is minimal. The radiation of a conventional CT scan is 2 mSv (millisievert). If it is a digital CT, this figure drops to only 0.02 mSv.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the increased risk of cancer or damage to the fetus during pregnancy associated with the use of radiation occurs in people who receive doses greater than 100 mSv. Therefore, These types of studies can be considered safe for health.

Pregnant women with dental problems will receive advice from the professional about the diagnostic methods that can be performed with them.

New advances

Medical technology is a field that is constantly evolving. New advances make increasingly precise equipment available to professionals, offering advantages for both the expert and the patient.

There is, for example, a type of dental CT that It is characterized by the conical shape of its X-ray emission source. This gives the equipment the particularity that, with a single 360-degree rotation, we obtain the necessary information from the area that interests us.

With this, a shorter exposure time is necessary. Therefore, the radiation received by the patient is less as well. This type of equipment with cone beam is already used in several dental centers.

Another state-of-the-art piece of equipment is a new scanner capable of performing, at the same time, panoramic radiography and dental CT. In general, both studies are needed for an accurate diagnosis. With this test it is possible to obtain both in a single exposure.

Dental CT for successful treatments

Dental CT is a simple, fast and comfortable test. With it, the dentist obtains precise information and in the three directions of space on the orofacial structures.

Performing this type of study provides data that translates into more accurate approaches. Thus, with a simple test, you increase the chances that the dental procedures indicated will be successful and with fewer adverse effects.

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