At Frost Dental Group, Dr. Lee Frost is faced with intricate work each day; he has to study the position of the root of a tooth in the jaw, for instance, or to work out the exact angle in which to place an implant so that it maintains an efficient relationship with the teeth that surround it. These are major challenges to get around when working with traditional imaging tools.
A complex dental arrangement can seem very different from what it really is, when viewed on a static, two-dimensional x-ray that only gives you the view from one perspective. Incorrect dental angles, irregularities, and asymmetries are often simply hidden from view. Traditionally, dentists had no choice but to use this image and to rely on professional experience to imagine the view from every angle. This is where breakthrough technology in dental imaging comes in – CBCT scan technology, called Cone Beam Computed Tomography.
How Does Cone Beam Computed Tomography Work?
A CBCT device uses low-powered x-ray beams (sent out in a divergent, three-dimensional array, arranged to form a cone) to allow a connected computer to obtain more than 500 distinct images from every angle. The software uses these images to form a digital volume – an image of the desired area that can be viewed from every angle and depth. The complete visual access that this technology offers to dentists has inspired some to call it virtual surgery. The obtainable imagery is realistic and complete.
Does CBCT Make Tangible Improvements Possible in Complex Dentistry?
Cone beam imaging gives Dr. Frost the ability to perform guided dental implant surgery – as opposed to unguided surgery that’s based simply on a few static two-dimensional images. Aided by CBCT, dental implants and other complex procedures become much more predictable. Dr. Frost is able to use three-dimensional CBCT imagery to perform an implant surgery virtually on the computer first. This way, Dr. Frost can try out different implant placement angles to arrive at the best aesthetic and mechanical results, work out the clearances to see if crowns will fit, and know which tools are most likely to work. These abilities make modern implant surgery phenomenally accurate.
Improved Safety is the Number One Advantage to Using CBCT in Implant Surgery
Working safely in a specific area in the mouth for dental treatment requires extreme accuracy, as many spaces in the mouth are crowded with nerves, blood vessels, bone, sinuses, and other anatomical structures. When a dentist takes a traditional two-dimensional image of such an area, all these landmarks become flatly superimposed on one another — it becomes impossible to tell the exact position of any structure. Dentists, then, need to err on the side of caution and simply make the safest bets possible so as to not cause damage to any nerves. In other words, dentists need to choose between safety and accuracy. This is the reason why the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology found it necessary to release a positional statement in 2012 where it recommends that CBCT be used for cross-sectional assessments in all dental implant procedures.
CBCT Technology Makes Implants Less Stressful for Both the Patient and the Dentist
Patients who come in for implants have often been missing teeth for quite a while. They may have also lost bone mass and their gums are less-than-healthy. These patients come in hoping for a perfect set of teeth despite all these issues, though. Working with conventional imaging technologies, a dentist has no way of knowing how close to a perfect set of implants the patient’s dental structure will permit. If an area has little bone mass, it may only be able to handle teeth that are smaller than the healthy, neighboring ones. In this instance, the patient may be unhappy with such results in the end.
With CBCT technology, Dr. Frost can actually show the patient, in advance, what the limitations of his dental anatomy are, and what the final results will look like – all in 3-D. With everything laid out in the open, both the patient and Dr. Frost can have a far smoother time working on correcting the issue.
The other area of stress for most dentists appears in the actual procedure. Implants done with traditional two-dimensional methods require considerable guesswork. With only 2mm or 3 mm of clearance to any neighboring nerve, a dentist needs to work 2 or more hours to locate the best way to place an implant, which is stressful for both parties involved. With surgery guided by CBCT technology, most implants are done in under a half hour. A full arch of implants can be done in less time today than it used to take for one implant.
CBCT is the Future of Dentistry
CBCT technology helps in exactly the right way — it helps dentists in defining the problem in front of them with great accuracy. With the problem half solved, they are able to concentrate on the most efficient solution possible.
For more information on how you can restore your smile with dental implants, contact our office today for your consultation.