Dental caries on CT in the ER population: prevalence and reporting practices

Jesse T. Brandfass, Adam C. Ulano, Joshua P. Nickerson, Michael P. Bazylewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although dental caries can be identified on CT and may be treatable, the literature provides little, if any, guidance on the responsibility of a neuroradiologist in reporting them. Untreated dental caries can impact diet and nutrition and can result in a variety of complications such as an odontogenic abscess, tooth loss, sinusitis, and dental pain, which can impact quality of life. The estimated prevalence of untreated dental caries in adults is 27%. In our experience, the prevalence of untreated dental caries in patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) is higher but dental caries are often unmentioned or unrecognized. We aim to determine the frequency of unreported dental caries and propose a paradigm for reporting and management. Methods: Our research was IRB-approved and HIPPA compliant. We searched the radiology database for adult patients who underwent a CT of the facial bones while in the Emergency Department between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2015. The examinations were reviewed by a faculty neuroradiologist for the presence of untreated dental caries. Untreated dental caries were documented and characterized by depth. Caries that were partially or completely obscured by dental amalgam artifact were excluded. The radiology reports were reviewed to evaluate reporting frequency. Statistical analysis was performed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. Results: A total of 200 patients (113 male, 87 female; age 18–98 years) underwent 200 CT examinations of the facial bones. One hundred fourteen (57%) patients had at least one dental caries. When caries were present, 14.9% of radiology reports included caries in the findings section and 9.6% of the reports mentioned caries in the impression. Conclusions: The presence of dental caries should be mentioned in the radiology report. The prevalence of untreated dental caries is higher in our cohort than reported in the general population, and dental caries are underreported by neuroradiologists at our institution. A paradigm for reporting and management was created upon collaboration with faculty from the University of Vermont Dental and Oral Health practice. A visit with a dentist should be recommended within 6 months if caries are limited to the enamel, within 3 months if caries involve the dentin, and within 2 weeks if caries extend in to the pulp. Further research is necessary to determine the clinical impact of improved reporting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-267
Number of pages5
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Caries
  • Caries facial bones
  • Caries on CT
  • Caries recommendations
  • Cavity
  • Dental
  • Dental CT
  • Dental caries
  • Reporting dental caries
  • Teeth
  • Teeth CT
  • Teeth facial bones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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