How Dentists Use MRI and CT Scans Systems To Serve Their Patients Better

January 19, 2021

How Dentists Use MRI and CT Scans Systems To Serve Their Patients Better
CT scans for dental use

Imagine this: You walk into your dentist’s office complaining of a toothache. It’s been days, you say. You point to the area where you feel the most pain.


Now, your dentist surely can’t know what exactly is wrong with your teeth by just feeling it with gloved hands or looking through their mouth mirror. They would not ask you to have a procedure without looking into what is going on with your teeth.


This is where MRI and CT scan systems come in. They are widely used across the medical field and are common radiologic procedures. MRI is used to look into the cross-sectional image of tissues and organs in our body. Read further about MRI scans.


CT scans are also used to look into a section of the body. However,  they are the preferred procedure in diagnosing cancer. Although they are primarily used for diagnosing cancer, what we are going to focus on is how they’re used in dental and/or orthodontic settings.

How They Work

MRI and CT scans may both be common procedures but they have their differences. From the prices of the procedures to the mode into which they produce images, they vary. To carefully check the condition of your oral health, talk to your dentist about what procedure would work best for you. Let’s dive into how they differ in their uses in dental settings.

How CT Scans Work in Dental Settings

There’s a regular dental x-ray and then there are cone-beam CT scans. Cone-beam CT (CBCT) scans to produce a 3D image of your bones, nerves, and teeth in a single scan. Cone-beam CT scans are not routinely used but it’s important in the planning of dental implant surgery.


You can also get a scan when you want to check if you have a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) or if you have severely impacted teeth. They are also useful in detecting tumors which is why they are invaluable in the diagnosis of oral cancers.


As for the procedure, you will first be asked to remove anything metal that you have in your body (dental braces don’t count because you can’t actually remove them yourself). The cone beam then scans an image by having the arms of the machine rotate around your head. You have to remain very still for just 20 to 40 seconds and then it’s done!


Afterward, you discuss the result with your dentist. The high-quality 3D image helps in the efficacious evaluation of your treatments.


How MRI Scans Work in Dental Settings

MRI scans also produce 3D images, and they are mainly used to monitor the progress of orthodontic tooth movement. They’re also used to monitor root length, bone structure, and root angulation. This procedure also allows repetitive imaging of dental structures minus the potentially harmful radiation exposure. Hence, it is considered the gold standard in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) imaging.


MRI equipment is costlier than CT scan equipment, and that means the procedures are more costly as well. Their maintenance involves a lot of work, too. According to VP of Sales Tonner LoRusso, DirectMed Parts’ remote monitoring application notified them about a problem regarding their MRI equipment. Then, they identified the problem being the cold head and installed a new one in no time!


For reference, preventive maintenance of MRI involves engineer training, cold head coverage, chiller service, and ACR accreditation. It needs a specific skill set to maintain.


Also, compared to CBCT it takes a longer time and there’s an increased possibility of motion artifacts because of this. It may also be a struggle for claustrophobic patients to push through the procedure.

How They Help

Apart from their uses, MRI scans and CT scans also have distinct benefits to boast about. Here are some of the examples:

For CT scan system:

1. It provides a clear internal anatomy image and quick image production
2. It is a non-invasive procedure
3. Bones and soft tissue can be viewed simultaneously
4. It allows dental implant pre-planning
5. It can be viewed from different points and angles

For MRI scan system:

1. It’s able to image the TMJ and disk.
2. It can display soft and hard tissues.
3. It is safe for patients who are allergic to the contrast agent.
4. All images can be obtained without the need to reposition the patient
5. It is capable of seeing inflammatory processes


Those mentioned above are just some of the benefits of MRI and CT scans in the dental practice. From here, it is obvious how involved they are, from planning to monitoring to evaluating the progress of the dental procedures done on the patients. They’re revolutionary and pave a better path to dental care!


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