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Review Article

Imaging Modalities of the Mandibular Canal and the Inferior Alveolar Nerve: an Overview

Georges Aad, Alexandre Khairallah, Georges Aoun.


Background: The mandibular canal, located within the mandible, carries the inferior alveolar nerve and the inferior alveolar vessels. This neurovascular bundle is at risk during mandibular surgical procedures. An adequate preoperatively visualization of the mandibular canal and its content could yield a more predictable treatment features with less postoperative complications. Objective: The aim of this study was to review the present visualization techniques of the mandibular canal and the inferior alveolar neurovascular bundle for better pre-operative planning in dentistry. Methods: Six different visualization methods (periapical, panoramic and three-dimensional radiographs, ultrasonography, endoscopy and magnetic resonance imaging), their advantages and disadvantages, are hereby reviewed with a stress on their clinical applicability in the dentist’s everyday practice. Discussion: Panoramic radiography and cone-beam computed tomography technology are considered very useful in the assessment of the mandibular canal. However, in some advanced cases, where the inferior alveolar neurovascular bundle must be identified, ultrasonography, endoscopy and magnetic resonance imaging can be used. Conclusion: All techniques reviewed in this paper except the periapical radiography can be useful in the visualization of either the mandibular canal or the inferior alveolar nerve.

Key words: mandibular canal, inferior alveolar nerve, panoramic radiograph, cone-beam computed tomography, ultrasonography, endoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging.

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