Cone beam imaging is the most advanced technique we have for obtaining detailed images of bone structures for use in diagnosing TMJ. Unlike traditional x-rays and the more recent panoramic x-rays, cone beam imaging creates a 3-D image of structures to enable us to see what’s really going on in your joint. Without detailed imaging, a TMJ diagnosis is simply a guess.
This page contains technical information that many people may find hard to understand. If you would like to talk to someone in our office who can explain the benefits of this technology simply and clearly, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy and Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.
What Is Cone Beam Imaging?
Cone beam imaging with iCat is a form of CT or computed tomography scan. CT is a scanning technology that uses multiple x-rays to construct a 3-D image of your tissues, especially your bone tissue. Each x-ray takes a flat picture of your bones, basically just a representation of a thin section of your body. By taking many of these pictures and putting them together in the computer, a CT scan stacks up these thin sections to make a 3-D model.
Cone beam imaging is different from traditional CT scans because it takes scans basically from a single point, but projected at different angles. This creates oblique views that can often give us better representations of 3-D structures and allows more precise imaging. In addition, the cone beam is able to create images with much less radiation than a traditional CT scan.
The Difference Between iCat Cone Beam and Panoramic X-ray
Panoramic x-ray is another variation on the traditional x-ray, but unlike iCat, it still only constructs a flat image. A panoramic scan is like a single x-ray, but instead of being fixed in place, it moves around. Think of it like a photocopier or computer scanner—it may move, but it’s still just capturing a flat image.
Panoramic x-rays are adequate—good, even—for most of the routine dental problems they are called on to diagnose. Dentists have learned how to read flat x-rays quite well and can get good information about many tooth and jaw-related problems.
However, the temporomandibular joint is a complex structure designed to have freedom of movement in all three planes. Damage and displacement of the joint simply cannot reliably be diagnosed without understanding what’s going on in three dimensions. Panoramic x-rays simply cannot give this information, and many of them were not originally designed to give any information about the temporomandibular joint and are simply retrofitted to add an extra point to the sales brochure.
What iCat Cone Beam Can Show
We can use iCat cone beam imaging to show many properties of the temporomandibular joint, allowing us to see when certain problems arise, including:
- Altered shape or configuration due to excessive internal force
- Osteoarthritis damage
- Inflammatory arthritis damage
- Formation of nodules in joint tissue
- Trauma fractures and damage
- Fusing of the jaw joint
- Congenital irregularities
Although traditional approaches such as talking about your symptoms, listening to your jaw joint, feeling the tenderness of the muscles, and others will always have a place in diagnosis, we cannot give a reliable diagnosis without proper imaging.
To learn more about our thoroughgoing—and successful—approach to TMJ diagnosis and treatment, please contact the TMJ Therapy and Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.