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CAT scans in dentistry.

CAT Scans In Dentistry

Computer technology in the field of dentistry now appears ready to offer a wonderful new benefit: less dental surgery.

The "CAT scan" or "CT scan," named for "computed tomography" is a procedure that can create an x-ray film of very small "slices" of the body and head. It produces a picture so accurate that dentists can build an exact model of a jawbone from the computer data.

Being able to determine the exact contours of the jaw means that the dentist no longer has to open the gums surgically and take an impression of the bone from which a plaster model is made. This is particularly important in placing dental implants under gums.

These "subperiosteal" implants are used primarily in cases in which bone loss has created an intolerable situation for either removable dentures or for in-bone implants. The subperiosteal framework supports a permanently mounted artificial tooth, which is much more functional and stable than removable artificial teeth.

The procedure for placing a subperiosteal implant now involves surgery to take an impression of the jawbone, construction of the implant framework and then a second surgery to implant it. With use of CT scans to determine the jaw contours, dentists and lab technicians obtain an accurate picture of the amount and thickness of bone in addition to its curves and valleys.

Specialists in dental research are still developing the best techniques for using the CT scan and are devising ways to train more dentists and technicians in the procedure. Researchers must find the best ways, for instance, of making sure that patients don't move during the procedure -- even a sigh could spoil the result. Special devices placed in the mouth put the upper and lower jaws in proper position and keep them steady while the computerized x-ray is being taken.

Radiation exposure during the CT appears to be minimal, since the concentration is placed in very small areas which are then "layered" by the computer to give a complete picture. Preliminary studies indicate the process could cost patients about the same as a first surgery for the bone impression and possibly -- eventually -- even less.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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