Advanced panoramic units with robotic rotation emerged following years of extensive research, and today’s professionals are benefiting from the primary advantage of this advanced technology—highly accurate images. Since human anatomy varies widely, engineers have been challenged to create a panoramic X-ray unit that would capture images of both maxillary and mandibular arches and their supporting structures with even magnification and minimal distortion. Beginning in the late 1980s, research breakthroughs came when studies in facial structure measurements at the University of Texas, San Antonio, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, resulted in a universal mathematical model of standard jaw shape based upon statistical averages. The model incorporated calculations of the anatomical structures for a variety of jaw sizes, ages, and ethnicities in the human population.
Why is this movement important? A traditional, cam-driven pan moves in a fixed, elliptical path; the X-ray beam is fixed in a static position throughout the entire process. This can create less-clear, distorted images. It is comparable to elongation, foreshortening, and overlapping in periapicals. In contrast, when a pan is capable of following the universal model, its arm rotates around the patient’s head as individualized motors, driven by microprocessors, quickly shift the arm, and thus the X-ray beam, left or right, forward or back, and rotationally, to achieve even magnification with the least amount of distortion.Once the research was published, engineers created mathematical expressions to determine a specific path that the X-ray beam would need to follow that fully represented the universal model. Mechanics were then developed that allowed the tube head to be guided by multifunctional motorized movement on several planes following the path. Design and rigorous testing of panoramic units with these mathematically based movements led to today’s precise, software-controlled robotics.
Technological innovation usually equals additional investment, and practitioners may wonder if the scientific benefits of robotics justify the financial commitment. Advanced panoramic units with this scientifically advanced feature and with small focal spots (the smaller, the better) are now available in an affordable investment range so that a greater number of professionals can meet their practice’s radiography and budgetary requirements. This technology, when enhanced with a CCD sensor, delivers immediate radiographs in a range of imaging modalities, including cephalometric imaging and transcan cross-sectional tomography.
Robotics is “here and now.” And robotic rotational radiography is a breakthrough worthy of a place in dental history. When seeking panoramic and cephalometric upgrades, consider the critical research conducted by leading clinicians and the time invested by radiographic engineers. Both have made it possible to deliver automated intelligence that ensures the greater accuracy that is beneficial to you and to your patients.
John Gregorio has a long history in the physics of imaging acquisition and motion control. He started his career more than 30 years ago in nuclear spectroscopy and data acquisition for one of the nation’s leading high-energy physics laboratories. John then branched into nuclear medicine image reconstruction where he was later able to design the mechanics, electronics, and software for today’s modern tomography. Upon joining Gendex in 2001, he was instrumental in the development of the motion, electronics, and embedded software for the 8500/8500 DDE system.