3-D X-Rays: Everything You Need to Know

Technology is moving at fast pace and these changes touch every industry in one way or another. In the field of orthodontics, advancement in technology has led to treatments that are faster, more comfortable, and less expensive. It’s also led to improvement in the diagnostic process.

3-D X-rays are an example of these advancements. It allows us orthodontists and other types of dental professionals to see things we wouldn’t be able to see with 2-D X-Rays, which in turn allows us to provide better, more customized treatment plans for our patients.

3-D X-rays are the way of the future, and if you haven’t been up close and personal with them yet, you likely will be before long. That’s why today I want to talk about 3-D X-rays.

3-D X-Rays Use Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CT)

You may have heard of “cone beam” and wondered what it is. It’s a special type of X-ray that gathers images of the teeth, bone, and soft tissues. Unlike normal dental X-rays, or bite-wings, which take images of small sections of teeth one by one, 3-D X-ray images are taken in a single scan by a device that rotates around the patient’s head.

3-D X-Rays Can Provide More Accurate Diagnoses

I’ve been able to see things with 3-D imaging that I would not have been able to see with a 2-D X-ray, most often a missing tooth or extra permanent tooth. (About 1-2% of people are born with an extra permanent tooth, while 3% are missing a tooth, so this discovery is not especially rare, but can be tough to see with 2-D imaging.) In my practice, they’ve been especially valuable on younger patients when time is on their side and early orthodontic treatment would lead to great results. Without this technology, it would be hard or impossible to really know what’s going on beneath the surface in these patients.

3-D Cone Beam Imaging Is Safe

Radiation from this type of scan is higher than regular dental X-rays but is still a negligible dose. But because of this difference, dentists and orthodontists are more sparing in their use of this technology and will employ it when seeing a new patient or when they need more information than a 2-D X-ray can provide. Be assured that it’s safe, and just as with any other scans, let your dentist or orthodontist know if you might be pregnant or have any other reason to avoid imaging.

Better Diagnosis Leads to Better Treatment

The ability to see what’s really going on in the mouth allows dentists and orthodontists like me to make a better treatment plan, one that will be faster and may even get better results. That’s why I love 3-D X-rays and think they’re a great tool. I hope this blog helped so that you have some background if your dentist or orthodontist recommends them at your next appointment.