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CT scans. Are they really necessary?

By October 22, 2014August 8th, 2019Blog

**Editor’s Note: We’re back! We got a little busy taking care of our wonderful patients, but we are excited to bring you some interesting content, features, opinions, bad jokes, and updates from our office!

CT Scans. Generally speaking, these scans do not bring about a positive thought because typically if you need one, something is not quite right. Thankfully in Orthodontics, we use CT Scans to look for impacted teeth, extra teeth, bone levels, and a few other minor occurrences.

A question I am starting to receive more and more is “Why don’t you take CT scan so you can fully diagnose me?” Fair question, and one that I’ve contemplated myself many times. Can a CT scan really help me diagnose a patient better. Like the answer to many other questions, the answer is yes AND no. Let’s dissect this a little bit more.

In Orthodontics and dentistry in general, Computed Tomography(CT) is limited primarily to the use of a Cone Beam CT machine. These machines have the ability the create an image of the exact area you need to see. It’s amazing technology, and has helped me diagnose some specific problems really well. So, why don’t I use it all the time, on every patient? The answer, primarily is, radiation.

A typical New Patient in our office has a Panoramic(Around the Head) and Lateral Cephalometric(Side) X-ray taken at the first visit. The combined radiation of these two x-rays is minimal, and certainly less than a targeted CBCT Scan. Our philosophy is that, if one of the x-rays shows something abnormal(i.e. an impacted or stuck tooth), then it is prudent to recommend a CBCT Scan to properly diagnose. We do not believe that a CT scan is necessary on every patient. That philosophy also follows along with the recommendation of the American Association of Orthodontists and American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologists. If you would like to dig into the weeds, their 2013 Report, which was co-written by one of my professors at Louisville, Dr. Bill Scarfe, is linked here.

The takeaway here is that the use of X-rays in our office is done on an individual basis based on clinical observation. As the technology improves on CBCT and the radiation dosage comes down, it is certainly possible in the future to see more of these scans be done more regularly.


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