Many people, including med students and novice doctors, wonder what cephalometrics are used for in orthodontics.
Cephalometrics are commonly used by orthodontists as a diagnostic tool and for treatment planning and assessment. But cephalometrics aren’t just for orthodontic treatment – otolaryngologists also use cephalometrics to analyze patients’ airways of ear, nose, and throat disorders such as sleep apnea.
When it comes to orthodontics, cephalometrics have many uses. But first, it’s important to understand what cephalometrics are and how it can aide you.
What is cephalometrics?
Cephalometrics consists of a cephalometric x-ray, also known as a ceph, and an analysis of the radiograph. The x-ray is extraoral, meaning the film is placed outside of the mouth. A ceph will show a full profile of facial structures, including irregularities and jaw and bite misalignment. Cephs can also show the relation of jaws and teeth to soft tissues and other parts of the skull. This is particularly helpful for orthodontists looking for impacted teeth, potential issues, or growth and change over time.
Cephs can be taken on radiographic film or with digital radiography. Digital radiography uses less radiation and takes less time to develop than radiographic film. Additionally, digital radiographs can be enhanced and enlarged to spot minute details. Additionally, using digital radiography makes it possible to easily save and share images, which is useful if you have multiple doctors or are tracking your cephs over time.
Not only is a ceph x-ray one of the most useful tools in orthodonic treatment planning but it is also quick and painless. Most cephs can be taken in less than 10 seconds and developed in less than 10 minutes, delivering results fast.
Why use cephalometrics?
Orthodontics often turn to bite-wing x-rays for spotting gum disease and tooth decay and use panoramic radiographs to gain insight into general teeth and jawbone health and jaw joint issues. However, there are many limitations these radiographs have when it comes to seeing a whole picture. Often, dental problems are not visible to the naked eye, and it’s necessary to have a full understanding of the entire skull and facial profile, including the soft tissues, for a comprehensive analysis.
Cephalometrics can help find the cause and location of issues that are often not spotted in other x-rays. By comparing a patient’s facial profile to normal values and identifying deviations from the average, cephalometrics allow for comprehensive morphological analysis.
While some x-rays may only identify a specific issue and location, cephalometrics can also reveal the cause of malocclusions. Cephalometrics can help orthodontists determine whether malocclusions are due to skeletal or alveolar deviations, and in patients with skeletal discrepancy, cephalometrics can identify if this is due to dento-alveolar compensation or dysplastic development.
In addition to the initial value a cephalometric x-ray has for identifying location and cause, cephalometrics also have predictive power.
Using Cephalometrics as a Predictive Diagnostic Technique
One of the reasons cephalometric radiographs are so useful in treatment planning is because of their ability to help orthodontists predict future facial growth. When creating a treatment plan, it is important that orthodontists do not just pay attention to the current facial structure state but also understand what may happen in the future. By examining stable mandibular structures, orthodontists can make estimates on mandibular growth and the possibility of future teeth rotation.
While a single cephalometric radiograph has expected limitations in predicting future changes, re-assessing a patient’s improvement through multiple cephs over time can help track the efficiency of a treatment plan efficiency and identify necessary adjustments.