Dr. Richard W. Oliver, Jr., DMD
Periodontics, Dental Implants and Laser Therapy

3D CAT Scan Imaging




Physicians have relied on computerized axial tomography scans (CAT), for many years.  CAT scans are an X-ray procedure that uses many different X-ray images with the help of computers to generate cross-sectional or even 3D views of internal organs and structures within the body.  A knee replacement surgery, for example, would never be performed without first examining 3D imaging.

More recently however, dentists have begun to rely on 3D imaging techniques and CAT scans to provide them with a detailed view of the mouth and skull.  The advantage that 3D imaging holds over regular dental x-rays is that the bone structure, bone density, teeth and nerve pathways can be viewed clearly.

CAT scans can be completed in less than one minute.  This means that far less radiation enters the body than if a regular set of bitewing x-rays were taken.  The main use for scans is as an aid to plan dental implant treatment and other oral surgery.

Dental implants are the most sophisticated replacement for missing teeth, but have historically proven to be time-consuming to place. CAT scans may reduce the time it takes to implant teeth by giving us intimate knowledge of the anatomy prior to initiation of the procedure.

How are CAT scans used?

CAT scans are advantageous because they allow us to magnify specific areas of the face.  In addition, we can easily view cross-sectional “slices” of the jaw, which makes planning treatment easier and faster.

Here are some of the main ways in which CAT scans are used in dentistry:

  • Assess the quality of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
  • Determine where nerves are located.
  • Diagnose tumors and disease in the early stages.
  • Measure the density of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
  • Pinpoint the most effective placement for implants, including the angle of best fit.
  • Plan the complete surgical procedure in advance, from start to finish.
  • Precisely decide on the appropriate size and type of implants.
  • View exact orientation and position of each tooth.
  • View impacted teeth.

How are CAT scans performed?

CAT scans are quick and simple to perform.  A Cone Beam Imaging System is at the heart of the CAT scan unit.  During the scan, the patient remains stationary as the cone beams are used to take literally hundreds of pictures of the face.  These pictures are used to compile an exact 3D image of the inner mechanisms of the face and jaw.  Ewe are then able to zoom in on specific areas and view them from alternate angles.

Patients report the CAT scan is comfortable and non-invasive.  Additionally, the scanner provides an open environment, meaning that claustrophobic feelings are eliminated.  The CAT scan is an incredible tool that is minimizing the cost of dental treatment, reducing treatment time and enhancing the end results of dental surgery.

If you have questions or concerns about CAT scans or 3D imaging, please contact our office.


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