8. Not Your Parent's Root Canal
High-definition scanners have transformed this tricky procedure
High-definition scanners have made the endodontist's job easier, too. Being able to get a high-quality 360-degree image of a tooth and the surrounding gum helps an endodontist see hairline fractures that would be hard to detect with even the finest dental x-rays.
Root canals—tooth-saving procedures in which an inflamed or infected nerve of a tooth is cleaned out and sealed—can be tricky. If there's a fracture in the root or an infection in the gum in which the decayed tooth sits, the root canal may not take and the patient could feel discomfort. At some point, the tooth will have to be removed.
"Having a 360-degree perspective enables us to detect the smallest fractures that make teeth hurt," says Chevy Chase endodontist Pirooz Zia. That can mean better diagnosing and fewer visits to the dentist. Says Zia: "This is revolutionizing the way we diagnose. It's taking away the guesswork."
The three-dimensional image also helps the endodontist by providing a road map to the labyrinthine canal system under a tooth. During a root canal, this area is cleaned out to avoid infection. Zia notes that infections in the roots of upper molars are often the undiagnosed culprits in chronic sinus infections. Patients can sometimes avoid sinus surgery by ruling out dental infections first.
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