High-contrast x-ray microtomography in dental research
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© 2017 SPIE. X-ray microtomography (XMT) is a well-established technique in dental research. The technique has been used extensively to explore the complex morphology of the root canal system, and to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate root canal instrumentation and filling efficacy in extracted teeth; enabling different techniques to be compared. Densitometric information can be used to identify and map demineralized tissue resulting from tooth decay (caries) and, in extracted teeth, the method can be used to evaluate different methods of excavation. More recently, high contrast XMT is being used to investigate the relationship between external insults to teeth and the pulpal reaction. When such insults occur, fluid may flow through dentinal tubules as a result of cracking or porosity in enamel. Over time, there is an increase in mineralization along the paths of the tubules from the pulp to the damaged region in enamel and this can be visualized using high contrast XMT. The scanner used for this employs time-delay integration to minimize the effects of detector inhomogeneity in order to greatly increase the upper limit on signal-to-noise ratio that can be achieved with long exposure times. When enamel cracks are present in extracted teeth, the presence of these pathways indicates that the cracking occurred prior to extraction. At high contrast, growth lines are occasionally seen in deciduous teeth which may have resulted from periods of maternal illness. Various other anomalies in mineralization resulting from trauma or genetic abnormalities can also be investigated using this technique.