What is Oral Maxillofacial Radiology?

Kal Hammadieh

Root Canal Treatment

October 13, 2021

Oral Maxillofacial Radiology (OMR) is a specialization of dentistry that uses radiographic imaging (x-rays) to help diagnose and even treat medical conditions affecting the maxillofacial region of your body that includes your jaw, mouth, teeth and face. The use of oral radiology in North York to detect medical issues affecting your maxillofacial region may be better known than the role of OMR in treating medical conditions. With OMR, specialists use radiation and radioactive materials to treat diseases affecting your maxillofacial region.

When are OMR technologies used?

If your dentist in North York becomes concerned about symptoms affecting your head, face, jaw or neck, your dentist may refer you to a specialist who performs oral radiology near you. A general and family dentist near you will certainly have x-ray machines, but an OMR specialist will have access to more sophisticated technology (which we’ll introduce below). Circumstances in which a dentist near you will refer you to an OMR specialist include:

  • If your dentist is developing a treatment plan for impacted wisdom teeth, tooth extractions or other oral surgery that might involve sedation dentistry including general anesthesia
  • If you’re experiencing facial pain or, for example, symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • If your dentist is investigating or developing a treatment plan for oral cancer
  • To investigate or evaluate tumours, cysts or developmental issues affecting your face, neck, jaw and teeth
  • To investigate sleep apnea symptoms or the condition of your airways
  • And to investigate and assess soft tissue calcifications that may be affecting your head and neck

Types of OMR technology

Your dentist and OMR specialist will identify and take advantage of the precise form of technology required to investigate your symptoms or condition, and to ensure that all information relevant to your treatment plan is at hand. OMR technology options include the following:

Digital x-rays use digital sensors to take high-definition, three-dimensional images of your maxillofacial region using 90% less radiation than traditional film radiography. Digital images offer the significant advantages of being capable of being enlarged, focused, enhanced, shared and transmitted nearly instantly.

Plain tomography (that produces two-dimensional images) and computed tomography (that produces three-dimensional images) are two related forms of OMR technology that are used to diagnose and treat a wide variety of medical conditions that include impacted wisdom teeth and TMJ disorders. Dentists also use plan and computed tomography while developing treatment plans for dental implants. Tomography helps dentists to determine whether you have sufficient bone structure to support an implant, and to determine the precise location of those implants.

Computerized axial tomography – better known as CAT scans – uses specialized x-ray equipment to develop cross-section images of bones, soft tissues, organs, muscles and even tumours affecting your maxillofacial region. CAT scans produce more information than is available through plain and computed tomography, and with minimal distortion. For those reasons, dentists and OMR specialists use CAT scans to diagnose endodontic conditions, to plan endodontic procedures, to diagnose and aid in the planning of surgery for oral cancer by precisely identifying, locating and measuring tumours.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology is used to assess and treat TMJ disorders and other medical conditions such as oral cancer. MRI technology uses computer systems, radio waves and magnetism to produce detailed images of anatomical structures. MRI technology offers the advantage of using no radiation and producing no side effects while producing accurate images of abnormalities affecting your bones, soft tissues and joints.

Ultrasound imaging (also known as sonography) uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structure inside your body. Ultrasound technology produces those images without producing any ionizing radiation or any side effects.

If you’ve been diagnosed with any medical condition affecting your maxillofacial region or your dentist or doctor is concerned about any symptoms, ask for a referral to an OMR specialist who will explain the risks and benefits of each option to ensure you get the care you need to maximize your oral health.