When the first dental implant surgeries were being done, it was common to perform exploratory surgeries. Dental x-rays just weren’t reliable enough to tell us exactly what bone was present and what was its condition. But now those days are in the past, thanks in large part to the use of computed tomography (CT) scans to analyze bone structure in the jaw that can support dental implants.

What Is a CT Scan?

In an x-ray, x-rays are sent through the body, and the amount of rays absorbed by hard tissue (bones and teeth) creates light areas on the image. But this is just a flat image, created by a single emission of x-rays. 

CT scans use multiple sets of x-rays in different positions to construct a 3D image of your bones. It’s like each x-ray takes a picture of a thin slice of your bone, then a computer is used to put all these slices together to create the final image.

Dental CT Scans Are Different

If you’ve either had a medical CT scan or seen a friend who had one, you might be picturing something similar in a dental office, but dental CT scans are very different. Most often we use what is known as a cone beam CT or CBCT. CBCT focuses its radiation from a single point and projects outward, creating a different perspective from the conventional flat cross sections. This has a number of benefits for dental implant treatment. 

Perhaps most importantly, it allows us to image smaller areas accurately. CBCT resolution is much smaller than that of conventional CT scans, and that’s good because the areas we’re dealing with are also small, much less than an inch square in many cases, though we want to look at larger areas for context. 

Another advantage of CBCT is that it uses a lower power radiation source, and patients are exposed to much less radiation. The procedure is also very quick, taking just a few seconds. 

A big relief for many people is that the CBCT machine is open and comfortable, not closed in and claustrophobic like medical CT scanners. 

Essential Planning for Your Dental Implant Procedure

The CBCT scanner is an essential part of planning your dental implant procedure. Success depends on planning the proper implant procedure for you, something we can’t do unless we really know the state of your jawbone and teeth. The CBCT shows us this, including areas of low-density bone so there’s pretty much no surprises when we do your surgery. 

At Rice Dentistry, we have our own CBCT scanner that allows us to perform treatment planning quickly and conveniently. You won’t be referred to another office for imaging and then have to come back to ours for evaluation–we can do it all in one place. 

And the CBCT scanner can also help when we have concerns about the health of your implant by showing us exactly what’s going on. 

If you would like to learn more about the technology that helps us provide impeccable dental implant procedures, please call  for an appointment with an Orange County implant dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.