Micro computed tomography, commonly referred to as micro-CT is a non-destructive 3D X-ray imaging technique. It provides high resolution images of the internal structure of a sample. It usually does not require sample preparation and the complete internal structure of the specimen can be visualized three-dimensionally in a single scan. In addition, the sample is left intact, so it can be further studied using other techniques.
Although on a much smaller scale and capable of much greater resolution, the micro-CT is based on the same principles as the CAT scanners used in hospital to acquire images of human internal organs. Similarly, the smaller dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scanner allows dentists to acquire more detailed 3D images of teeth, bone, and nerve pathways when a regular X-ray is not sufficient.
In a recent interview Dr Marco Versiani, an invited researcher at the Dental School of Ribeirão Preto, University of Sao Paulo, described how micro-CT facilitates his research to further understand the influence of root canal anatomy in several endodontic procedures.
Endodontics is the branch of dentistry that specialises in the root canal and tissues surrounding the roots of a tooth. The root canal is the space inside a tooth that contains the dental pulp tissue and this is the site of endodontic procedures. Therefore, in the same way that anatomy is the foundation of medicine, root canal anatomy can be considered the foundation of the endodontics specialty.
Being accurate and non-destructive, micro-CT has provided many impressive and significant results in dental research. Micro-CT has the added advantage that it allows the same target area of the same sample to be assessed at different steps of an experimental procedure. This enables the use of more reliable controls in studies, which makes the data obtained more robust. Micro-CT is a more accurate imaging tool than CBCT, but can only be used for research purposes. However, it has proved extremely valuable for validating in vivo clinical data obtained using CBCT.