In-Office CT Scanner

Dr. John Highsmith was the first in Western North Carolina (2007) to have a state-of-the-art Dental CT scanner right in the dental office to diagnose and treat patients. The I-CAT Cone Beam imaging system scans your head and jaw bones in 3-D, creating sharply detailed computer measurements of head, joints and airways that can be viewed from any angle and even as cross-sections.

This leapfrogs dental imaging far beyond bitewing x-rays, where patients traditionally wear lead aprons and hold film in their mouths. Highsmith uses the i-CAT to diagnose patients, spot disease, and test surgical procedures in 3-D. This helps predict outcomes for technical procedures like cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, and neuromuscular dentistry.

Getting an I-CAT scan is easy and comfortable. Patients sitting in its open-air chair find it very different from lying down in hospital CT scanners. Sitting up reveals your natural posture and jaw positioning, and how you hold your jaw and teeth together. And the scan itself is very quick, only 20 seconds.

Placing her head on a chinrest, a patient lets the i-CAT do the work as it orbits around her head. It takes only 20 seconds, producing a mere two percent (1/50th) of the radiation from a traditional CAT scan. I-CAT’s low-level amount is the same as eight days of regular outdoor background exposure, said Highsmith, what you get every day from just being alive.

The I-CAT scan’s eagle-eye view of bone and tooth orientation lets Dr. Highsmith spot problem areas, determine causes of patient symptoms, and plan treatment before the actual procedure.

Highsmith uses the I-CAT as a tool for placing dental implants, treating impacted teeth, and diagnosing temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) problems. The 3-D views can reveal unusual shapes, tooth root shapes and nerve canal locations, plus fractures, changes in bone density, abscesses, cysts and even tumors.

I-CAT lets Dr. Highsmith perform virtual tooth surgery ahead of time to discover better treatment options and possible challenges. The art and science of dental implants has progressed so we can make a template from this CT scan, allowing implant placement so precise that we can often eliminate stitches.

It’s a great teaching tool. On the computer screen, we can rotate your head in any direction. It’s amazing to see a picture of your own head from any view. It’s easy for patients to understand their condition and learn about the treatment process. Since this is all in one convenient visit, you can even take a photo home on CD to show your family.

The in-office I-CAT gives patients top technology, saves them time and money, and helps them better understand their teeth and their dental options. It saves a trip to the hospital for a CT scan, it’s a fraction of the radiation, and can help us catch a tumor. What’s not to like?

Every dental professional could use a 3-D dental scanner, but equipment cost makes it impractical, said Highsmith. It makes sense to have one nearby, Highsmith said. “I’ve notified professionals in the area and put my scanner at their service. Over 30 health professionals recently attended a reception and introduction to the technology.”

Periodontist Dr. Emily Hall of Waynesville has already sent patients to Dr. Highsmith for a scan visit. “This first experience with the 3-D imaging system was very positive,” said Dr. Hall. “Dr. Highsmith’s staff was professional and courteous to my patient. The data received was very helpful in treatment-planning this case. I highly recommend use of the 3-D imaging, and appreciate Dr. Highsmith offering this service to local dentists.”

“I’m glad Dr. Highsmith stepped up to the plate to acquire this equipment for western North Carolina,” Hall added.