Health Team

UNC researchers develop 3D dental X-ray method

Posted September 24, 2015
Updated September 25, 2015

Dentists use X-rays to spot cavities and other problems with teeth, but standard images may miss problems that can become more serious.

To help dentists and patients, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are developing a 3D X-ray that offers more detail.

The X-rays work like a CT scan, allowing dentists to see slice-by-slice views of the mouth.

The technology is called 3D Intraoral Imaging, and it was invented by UNC physics professors Jianping Lu and Otto Zhou.

"We invented this technology generating X-ray radiation using what's called carbon nano-tubes," Zhou said.

The doctors have already used the same method in a type of 3D breast tomosynthesis, which takes more detailed pictures.

The nano-carbon tube X-ray device does not move – making its images clearer – while it takes multiple images within a 20-degree angle.

Working with UNC's School of Dentistry, the inventors applied their work to dental X-rays using cadaver teeth. It offers clearer pictures of cavities and other issues.

Patients won't notice a difference during exams, but dentists will see the changes.

"Better detail, more information from the same amount of radiation," UNC oral and maxillofacial radiologist Rick Platin said.

The 3D dental X-ray system is being developed by a company called Xintek in collaboration with UNC. It will eventually be used in clinical trials with clinic patients.

The technology is also being used for lung imaging and even airport luggage screening.


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  • Roy Hinkley Sep 25, 2015
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    Dental humor, oy vey.

  • Dana McCall Sep 25, 2015
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    I guess the S.L.O.B.s rule the world now, huh? :) (at least the great Dr. Platin will get that joke!)