Present status and future directions: Imaging techniques for the detection of periapical lesions

Elisabetta Cotti*, Elia Schirru

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Diagnosing and treating apical periodontitis (AP) in an attempt to preserve the natural dentition, and to prevent the direct and indirect systemic effects of this condition, is the major goal in endodontics. Considering that AP is frequently asymptomatic, and is most often associated with a lesion in the periapex of the affected tooth, within the maxillary bones, imaging becomes of paramount importance for the diagnosis of the disease. The aim of this narrative review was to investigate the most relevant classic and current literature to describe which are, to date, the diagnostic imaging systems most reliable and advanced to achieve the early and predictable detection of AP, the best measures of the lesions and the disclosure of the different features of the disease. Dental panoramic tomography (DPT) is a classic exam, considered still useful to provide the basic diagnosis of AP in certain districts of the maxillary bones. Periapical radiographs (PRs) represent a valid routine examination, with few, known limitations. Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is the only system that ensures the early and predictable detection of all periapical lesions in the jaws, with the minor risk of false positives. These techniques can be successfully implemented, with ultrasounds (USI) or magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging, exams that do not use ionising radiations. MRI and USI provide information on specific features of the lesions, like the presence and amount of vascular supply, their content and their relationship with the surrounding soft tissues, leading to differential diagnoses. Further, all the three-dimensional systems (CBCT, USI and MRI) allow the volumetric assessment of AP. Pioneering research on artificial intelligence is slowly progressing in the detection of periapical radiolucencies on DPTs, PRs and CBCTs, however, with promising results. Finally, it is established that all imaging techniques have to be associated with a thorough clinical examination and a good degree of calibration of the operator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1099
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Endodontic Journal
Issue numberS4
Early online date20 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • apical cysts
  • apical periodontitis
  • CBCT
  • diagnosis
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • ultrasound imaging


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