3D Ultrasound Technology in Dentistry
Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT
Whether it be intraoral scanning or radiographic imaging, digital imaging has taken an unprecedented hold in dentistry. Both modalities have their benefits as well as their inherent drawbacks. Acquiring pertinent patient-specific data of the oral environment is crucial for dentists to both assess their patients' dentition and appropriately plan treatment options and protocols. The greatest benefit of radiographic imaging is the ability to attain high-quality images, as well as the ability to capture images of hard structures like bone and skull unobstructed by tissue and other soft tissue structures. However, in order to accomplish that, the patient is subjected to small amounts of radiation. On the other hand, intraoral scanning in dentistry offers high-quality imaging for capturing the oral environment, specifically tooth structures. However, this technology is a surface scan and can only capture what is on the surface; it cannot penetrate soft tissues like gingiva and therefore requires the dentist to pack cord in order to expose the margin clearly. This process, if not done properly, undermines the success of the restoration. The use of both modalities—intraoral scanning and radiographic imaging—can help successfully prepare for surgical restorative dentistry cases.
A promising technology that has been used in the medical community for some time with considerable success and has the potential to overcome the drawbacks of both of the abovementioned imaging modalities is called ultrasound technology. This option can acquire data on both hard and soft tissue without emitting any radiation or requiring the dentist to prepare anything beforehand. According to an overview by Demirturk and Angelopoulos, "Ultrasonography is a noninvasive, nonionizing, inexpensive, and painless imaging tool proven to be a valuable diagnostic tool in soft tissue assessment that also shows promise for hard tissue evaluation in dentistry. Ultrasonography has been investigated for its capability to identify carious lesions, tooth fractures or cracks, periodontal bony defects, maxillofacial fractures, and more."1
While ultrasound scanning traditionally exhibited a low-resolution image that would not qualify or be deemed useful for restorative dentistry, recently there have been tremendous strides made in 3D ultrasound technology that have yielded a significantly better resolution and scan quality. I experienced the advancements in 3D ultrasonography when it was offered during my wife's pregnancy with my son. The quality of the 3D image was remarkably detailed and realistic. The images can even be 3D printed.
For all these reasons, I believe that 3D ultrasonography will be used in routine dentistry and restorative dentistry in the future for dental scanning, caries detection, dental fractures, soft tissue and periapical lesions, maxillofacial fractures, gingival and muscle thickness, temporomandibular disorders, and implant dentistry.2
It is my honor and pleasure to elevate and inspire with knowledge.
1. Demirturk KH, Angelopoulos C. Ultrasound in dentistry: Toward a future of radiation-free imaging. Dent Clin North Am.2018 Jul;62(3):481-489. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29903563
2. Marotti J, Heger S, Tinschert J, Tortamano P, et al. Recent advances of ultrasound imaging in dentistry-a review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2013 Jun;115(6):819-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23706922