Advanced Imaging: 3D Dental X-rays vs 2D Dental X-rays

September 1, 2022

Dental x-rays play an important role in helping your dentist get a good look at your teeth and gums. Some types of x-rays can show more than others, so you should know what to look for when deciding between 3D and 2D dental x-rays! Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between 3D and 2D dental x-rays and why the obvious choice should be 3D dental x-rays!

What Are Conventional 2D Dental X-rays?

A 2D x-ray is a radiographic examination that takes pictures of structures and tissues within the mouth (intraoral) or of the jaw and skull (extraoral). This includes the teeth, upper and lower jaws, and surrounding tissues. From simple intraoral x-rays to full mouth x-rays, these types of x-rays can range widely:

  • Adult / child panoramic imaging
  • Temporomandibular Joint
  • Maxillary Sinuses
  • Dentition
  • Bitewing
  • Cranial Teleradiography (lateral and frontal)

What is 3D Dental X-ray - Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT)?

CBCT is a newer technology that provides a three-dimensional view of your teeth and supporting structures. This type of imaging produces much more detailed images than traditional two-dimensional dental x-rays.

With CBCT, your dentist can see the exact relationship of your teeth to each other and to the bones that support them. This information is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment planning. The CBCT scanner will take many pictures of your head and neck from different angles to create a complete picture.

There are no dangers with 3D CBCT scanning because it doesn't use radiation like traditional dental x-rays do. In fact, studies have shown that the exposure is equivalent to one hour in front of a computer screen or about five minutes on an airplane flight!

3D x-rays are helpful for the following:  assessing jaw alignment, diagnosing tooth crowding, assessing tooth decay and gum disease before the damage becomes irreversible, determining if there is any loss of bone around the roots of teeth (tooth resorption), looking at tooth roots for cysts or tumors, determining if wisdom teeth should be removed prior to eruption through the gums (if they're too close to existing teeth), assessing whether impacted wisdom teeth require extraction or not etc.

2D vs 3D Dental X-rays: Which Is Better?

Dental x-rays and 2D panographs cannot clearly see the inside of the bone, and cannot see the tongue-side of the bone at all. Only a cone beam CT (CBCT image) can create a 3D view and cross sections of the area of interest.

The information provided in a CBCT scan is extremely important when placing dental implants, performing a complex root canal or extraction, planning orthodontics, evaluating the sinuses and airway, testing your TMJ (jaw joint), or looking for the source of pain or infection.

To make sure you are getting the best care possible, request that your dentist perform a cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scan. They will use this high-resolution imaging to gain a much clearer view of what's going on inside your mouth.

Some additional benefits:

Precise Treatment: Your dentist will be able to plan a treatment protocol that is specific and unique to your dental needs.

Fast Results: A 3D x-ray only takes about 14-20 seconds to complete and the computer completes its reconstruction in about 7 minutes, so your entire visit for a 3D CBCT at a dental imaging center could only last 10-15'.

Convenience: 2D x-rays require films and films cause discomfort, but 3D x-rays are instantaneous and require no film.

Improved Diagnostic Ability: 3D x-ray can exhibit areas that can easily be hidden with 2D x-rays, which helps enhance the diagnosis process.

Lowered Risk: 3D x-ray scanners emit a lower x-ray dose compared to those emitted by conventional 2D x-ray products.

Complete Picture: A 3D x-ray can exhibit areas that can easily be hidden with 2D x-rays.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Dentistry?

The development of 3D dental x-rays is a game-changer for the field of dentistry. With this technology, dentists can get a clear, three-dimensional view of a patient's teeth and mouth, which leads to more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Additionally, 3D x-rays are less invasive and expose patients to less radiation than traditional 2D x-rays. However, not every dentist in the San Francisco Bay area has a 3D x-ray machine. Good news – at all Reveal Diagnostic centers we have the latest CBCT equipment and as the only accredited dental imaging network in California, operate under best-in-class procedures.

Appointments are quick and easy! 

Call our friendly team at (415) 837-5990 for an appointment!

Resources From Our Blog

How to Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea (And How a CBCT Scan Can Help)
Are Dental X-Rays Safe? Here’s What the Science Says
Why You Want to Choose a MIPPA-Accredited Imaging Center
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