The primary mode of radiographic visualization within the dental environment utilizes the bitewing, periapical, or orthopantomographic image, viewed either digitally, or by film equivalent. Many of us where trained, licensed, and have been in dental practice prior to the now present incorporation of CBCT technology.

Over the past number of years the integration of CBCT technology has enormously benefited dental implantology. All the while this same CBCT technology can vastly improve our ability to view, and therefore diagnose an endodontic case.

Seltzer and Bender in the J.O.E. November 2003 described the interpretative challenge of visualizing pathology unless it has progressed and eroded into the cortical bone. In other words the density of the cortical bone impedes our visualization of pathology contained within the less dense medullary or cancellous osseous tissue. I have taken the liberty to label this anatomic reality as “cortical cloaking”. Any sized lesions or dentinal defects contained within the cancellous bone are generally “cloaked”, therefore not visualized well with a routine periapical radiograph, unless the defect has removed a significant portion of the adjacent cortical architecture. “Cloaked” visualization also presents with root resorption patterns amongst other dental situations, such as significant fractures, and secondary anatomy.

CBCT slices yield digital visual information of cancellous osseous tissue allowing us in dentistry to remove this “cortical cloaking” and vastly improve our ability to render, for our patients benefit, the nature and extent of their actual condition.


This case presented in my office with considerable discomfort stemming from maxillary quadrant. Percussion sensitivity and radiographic information determined the consideration for endodontic intervention #2 and #3. We went ahead and suggested a CBCT scan to visualize further information. Surprisingly, though not apparent on the periapical radiograph, the MB buccal aspect of #3 presented with a 4x5mm. resorption defect, demarcated by the green arrow in this anatomic slice.

This coronal slice gives further visual evidence as to the extent of the MB root resorption pattern, apical lesion, as well as medullary osseous tissue loss from the furcation of #2 along with maxillary antrum thickening.

Please share with your colleagues. There will be weekly additional CBCT scans presented on this blog for your educational benefit.

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Success in Endodontics 2.0 is an evidence-based online endodontic textbook that shortens the learning curve to do predictable and successful endodontics. This comprehensive, continuing education program was designed for the general dentist who has completed less than 5,000 root canal procedures.

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