Imaging means recording clinical information and can include 3D scans of the dental arches (teeth) , photos and low dose 3D radiology. The value in dentistry and diagnosis is enormous, and none more so, than when assessing the upper airway.
In cases of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring the nose, nasal cavity, sinuses and the throat are all extremely important in optimized sleep breathing and a compromised airway can very easily compromise health and treatment too. There may even be times when the “problem” can be resolved from acting on the information gained, thereby avoiding CPAP or oral appliances although more often, these treatments can be enhanced.
Not everyone needs imaging but in cases where indicated it can provide benefits that can make the difference between success and failure when combined with experience, accurate diagnostics and appropriate treatment planning.
Due to the developmental damage that occurs with sleep disordered breathing, jaw growth may be affected and jaw joint problems can ensue. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) is often seen in association with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Again, imaging can be of great value in determining what has happened and how it can be treated. (Surgery is almost never the ideal treatment, and we prefer conservative approaches which are commonly those appropriate and chosen).
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Dental imaging can be used for diagnosis for surgery (ie wisdom teeth) , airway, implants, endodontics (root canals) and general review for pathologies including space occupying lesions, cysts and growths which could not otherwise be visualized.
All imaging must be read and reviewed. Whoever takes (prescribes) the x-ray is responsible for reading it – if something is missed, the prescriber is responsible. For full scans, regardless of why they are taken – I’d suggest considering getting a radiologist’s report as a matter of routine.
Dental imaging can be extremely valuable in all aspects of modern dentistry from oral airway illustration through to examination of the nose and sinuses.
Dr. Stephen Bray