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Inside Dentistry
October 2016
Volume 12, Issue 10

3D Imaging Equipment

Safely perform advanced procedures with better imaging

Olga Malkin, DMD

The presence of 3D imaging equipment in dental practices has become much more common in recent years. Once only employed for implant treatment planning and restorations, technological advancements have increased 3D imaging quality and provided practices with many more uses for this type of equipment.

In the treatment planning phase of implant restorations, 3D imaging has become a standard of care. With 3D imaging we are able to fully diagnose the position of vital anatomic structures, such as the maxillary sinus and inferior alveolar nerve.1 In addition, 3D imaging gives us a full assessment of bone quality and quantity, and also makes it possible to treatment plan and perform fully- and partially-guided implant surgery.2

Providers who perform endodontic procedures find 3D imaging equipment particularly useful because it allows them to diagnose periapical pathology that is not visible on regular x-rays. A flat, 2D image of the periapical x-ray often doesn’t reveal the extent of the pathology, as there is bone both in front and behind the pathology that gets in the way. With 3D imaging, they can see the extent of the pathology at the tip of the root and use that visual information to decide the best course of action. They can determine if the tooth needs to be removed or if it can be saved.

Root fractures can also be diagnosed using 3D imaging.3 Diagnosis was previously done on a symptomatic basis. Treatment for a root fracture could only begin after the patient reported symptoms that matched the known symptoms of a fractured tooth. Now, high-quality 3D imaging gives endodontists the ability to physically see fractures, allowing for faster and more effective treatment.

Nerve canals can be diagnosed in a similar way. For example, a mesiobuccal canal on the maxillary molar is often difficult to locate using 2D x-ray technology, but 3D imaging makes them easier to find.

Significant Price Drops for More Accessible Equipment

Additional applications are a significant factor in the recent popularity of 3D imaging equipment, but an even bigger factor is that this equipment costs a lot less than in previous years.

As recently as 2014, most cone-beam com­puted tomography (CBCT) systems were incredibly expensive, but these prices have dropped dramatically in the past 2 years. Now, basic 3D systems are available for under $100,000, making 3D imaging equipment more accessible to practices than ever before.4

Costs to Consider

There are multiple factors that a practice must consider when they are in the process of selecting which make and model of 3D imaging equipment they will purchase.

For example, in addition to the cost of the equipment itself, the cost of software may or may not be included. This is similar to how the practical cost of a personal computer can be made more expensive if it does not come pre-packaged with a standard software suite like Microsoft Office.

Also, software is not always a one-time expense. Practitioners need to know how often software will be updated and if these updates are free or not.

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