By Gina Morton

The Danville News

LEWISBURG — Orthodontists used to work as if they were in a dark room. They knew where stuff was and were able to feel around to find their way, but now with the help of a new 3D digital X-ray machine, it's like the light has been turned on.

For years, only regular two-dimensional X-rays were used. Doctors had to wait for the film, then interpret it and use educated guessing. The key to everything orthodontists do, Dr. Albert Stush, an orthodontist in Lewisburg, pointed out, is diagnostics. But now, with the new Kodak 9000C 3D Extraoral Imaging System, everything is changing.

According to Stush, the machine is "the standard care in orthodontics" and his is one of the only offices in the area to have one.

The large machine, installed in October and in use since January, looks like something from outer space as it moves up and down to fit and adjust to any person of any size.

A camera rotates around the patient's head and takes a photo that automatically appears on an adjacent computer. The instantaneous images can even be manipulated without doing an entire new X-ray.

"There is no develop time," Dr. Stush said. Patients don't have to wait. "It really facilitates patient care."

The machine also reduces radiation by 50 percent in comparison to the previous machines and methods used.

"Any radiation — on a plane, beach or from an X-ray — is cumulative," Dr. Stush said. "It doesn't go away."

The images can be reversed, lightened, darkened and adjusted to see various angles and properties. "It's great for diagnosing teeth coming in," Dr. Stush said. "It lets us see things we couldn't see before — how close the roots are, other teeth. For me, I can tell exactly where a tooth is."

It also helps doctors guide in permanent teeth in the right area and direction, prepare implants for the mouth, get needed information for root canals, and plan treatment for patients better. Stush said the system can also provide an approximate of how long certain procedures might take.

"It's great patient communication — we can show them and educate them," he said.

Providing oral surgeons with the 3D photos can also assist those professionals diagnose and better treat the patients they are seeing.

"A picture," he said, "is really worth a thousand words."

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