Students get look at 3-dimensional X-ray imager

By Observer staff April 14, 2010 01:43 pm

A new dental dimension.

ODS College of Dental Sciences students visiting the office of Wes Rampton, DMD, for guest lectures can see a diagnostic tool that gives dentists a three-dimensional look at patients’ mouths. It is a tool one can find nowhere else in Eastern Oregon.

Rampton’s office features a new cone beam three-dimensional X-ray imager. The cone beam provides three-dimensional images of the mouth and teeth. It allows Rampton to see much more than he can with traditional X-ray machines.

“It makes soft tissue, the location of nerve canals and much more fully visible. It provides so much more diagnostic information,’’ said Rampton, who shows his cone beam and the images it produces to ODS students.

Rampton is the only dentist or health professional in Eastern Oregon with a cone beam 3D imager. Rampton is a general dentist specializing in dental implants and root canals.

He said the cone beam is particularly valuable when conducting dental implants since it shows precisely where the main nerve in the jaw bone is. This is critical when doing a dental implant, for it allows dentists to better protect nerves from injury.

“An implant miscalculated can cause altered sensation or numbness,’’ Rampton said. “The first time I saw (a cone beam) I realized that I had no business putting in another implant in without it.’’

Rampton said the position of the major nerve in the jaw bone in relation to teeth varies significantly in people. The nerve can be anywhere from 5 to 20 millimeters below the surface of the lower gums.

A cone beam X-ray also greatly assists dentists performing root canals because it indicates where “nerve canals’’ are in teeth. Individual teeth have between one to seven nerve canals. These do not all show up in conventional X-rays, but they do in cone beam X-rays.

Lynn Harris, DMD, of La Grande is among the dentists who will be sending some of his patients to Rampton for cone beam X-rays when they have a condition he wants to examine more closely. Harris said the cone beam, a new technology, is to dentistry what the CT scan (computerized axial tomography) is to physicians. CT scans show doctors far more than conventional X-rays do.

Rampton uses the analogy of someone exploring a mountainous area on foot when illustrating the value of a cone beam.

“(The cone beam) is like taking someone hiking in the wilderness with a map and giving them a GPS,’’ he said.