It is no secret that technology has greatly improved most facets of life. The world of medicine has benefited and so have the countless numbers of people who have led healthier and more enjoyable lives. In the development of health improving technologies, dentistry is no exception. Without it, many procedures would cause an immense amount of pain to the patient, and some would not even be possible. Many disease detecting methods would not exist either. Dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), known as CT or CAT scans, is a technology that has emerged from this movement and has completely revolutionized the industry.

Dental Imaging History

When a patient is assessed, imaging is an important process which gives the doctor better look at the mouth. Panoramic radiography started to make its way into dentistry in the 1960s and was widely adopted by the 1980s due to its ability to provide dentists with a comprehensive image of the maxillofacial area – jaws, mouth, and face. The downside to these images is that they were two-dimensional and were often subject tomagnification, skewing, and distortion, leading to a misrepresentation of the structure.

Three-dimensional imaging was introduced shortly thereafter, in the form of stereoscopy and tuned aperture computer tomography, but because of their cost, their use has been limited.

What is CBCT?

The introduction of CBCT has revolutionized the industry, because finally an affordable and accessible machine could be used to exclusively capture images of the bones and soft tissue in the maxillofacial area. It is a superior tool which puts out an accurate 3D model for greater precision and improved diagnosis for treatment planning. A CBCT scan can provide multiple types of images, such as full cross sections, multiple overlays, axial or transverse shots, coronal and sagittal planes.

The machine is scanner which revolves 200 degrees around the head and captures over 600 unique images. The software compiles the data and reconstructs it to produce a visual model of the maxillofacial area. With the right software, these images can be shared easily between professionals of all fields of dentistry, such as oral surgery, endodontics, and orthodontics.

Its strength lies in the imaging of the soft tissue, such as the gums, nerve endings and passageways, and has the ability to detect a multitude of diseases.

The use of CBCT has become a necessary tool in the proper diagnosis, planning, and subsequent treatment of any patient.

What to Expect and Potential Health Risks

If you’re being called into a CBCT scan, here is what generally happens. You will be positioned, usually seated, and the scanner will be dropped in from above. You will be asked to stay very still while the machine rotates around your head, taking up less than one minute.

If you are worried about radiation, it is important to remember that scanning is quick, painless, and there are no immediate side effects. Of course, radiation is not a healthy process to expose your body to, but the benefit of an accurate diagnosis, especially in the detection of disease, will greatly outweigh the risks of radiation. Since children are more sensitive to radiation, they should only be taking CBCT scans if absolutely necessary.