Cone Beam CT has some similarities with conventional X-rays, and also with the standard CT scans you would get in a hospital setting. But it's a quantum leap forward in technology and diagnostic precision. For the dentist, it offers the ability to visualize intricate structures inside the mouth, such as root canals, nerves and sinuses (air-filled spaces) in the jaw — in three dimensions — without surgery. For the patient, it can reduce the need for invasive procedures, shorten treatment time and offer the chance for a better outcome.
The detailed diagnostic images that CBCT provides have made it an essential tool in many dental specialties. But, as with any diagnostic tool that uses radiation, the medical benefits offered must be weighed against the (small) potential risks of the procedure.
How Cone Beam CT Works
X-rays, like visible light, are a form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum. Just as light makes an image on photographic film (or a digital camera sensor), X-rays can also form an image. The difference is that energetic X-rays can penetrate bone and soft tissue, and reveal its hidden structure by their varying degrees of absorption; in other words, they form a grayscale picture of what's underneath the surface. But conventional X-rays are limited: Like a still-life picture, they show only one perspective on the scene.
Now imagine a “flip book” — the kind of small book made up of a series of pictures, each slightly different. When you rapidly page through it, you may see (for example) an animated cartoon or a still subject from different perspectives. If you could put together a flip book made from a series of X-ray “slices” of the same subject, taken at slightly different angles, you would be able to create an “animation” of the X-rays. And from there, it's only one more step to making a 3-D model.
That's exactly what CBCT scanners do. Using a rotating imaging device that moves around the patient's head, the scanner records between 150 and 600 different X-ray views in under a minute. Then, a powerful computer processes the information and creates a virtual model of the area under study. When it's done, the model appears as a three-dimensional image on a computer screen: It can be rotated from side to side or up and down, examined in greater or less detail, and manipulated in any number of ways — all without the patient feeling any discomfort... or even being present.
Where Cone Beam CT Is Used
The ability to see fine anatomical structures in 3-D has proven invaluable in treating conditions in many areas of dentistry.
- Orthodontics: Having accurate information on the position of teeth and jaws helps determine exactly how and where teeth should be moved.
- Dental implants: Detailed CBCT images are used to determine the optimum location for the titanium implants while avoiding nerves, sinuses and areas of low bone density.
- Orthognathic Jaw Surgery and Temporo-mandibular Joint (TMJ) Disease: Patients benefit when the specialists who treat these conditions can evaluate their anatomy with the three-dimensional perspective that cone beam CT provides.
- Oral Surgery: Treatment for tumors or impacted teeth is aided by the level of fine detail shown in these scans.
- Endodontics: Dentists performing intricate procedures (like complex root canals, for example) can benefit from a clearer visualization of the tooth's anatomy.
- Sleep Apnea: Imaging the tissues and structures of the nose, mouth and throat can aid in diagnosis and treatment of this dangerous condition.
Could Cone Beam CT Benefit You?
Each patient's situation is different, and must be carefully considered by a clinical professional before any test or procedure is performed. While CBCT delivers a smaller dose of radiation (X-rays) than many other diagnostic tests, it still carries a small risk — particularly for younger patients, or those with other health problems. As is the case for any medical procedure, all risks, benefits and alternatives are taken into account before the procedure is recommended.
Getting The Full Picture With Cone Beam Dental Scans
Dental imaging took a major leap forward at the beginning of the new millennium with a three-dimensional technology known as cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). The name comes from the cone-shaped beam of x-rays the CBCT machine projects as it rotates around a person's head, taking multiple images that are compiled into a 3-D picture by a computer. Find out what CBCT can reveal and how it helps a doctor to make a highly informed diagnosis and choice of treatment... Read Article
The complex devices all around us — from long-range satellite links in our cars and offices to powerful computers in our hand-held gadgets — prove beyond a doubt that we live in a technology-driven world. In the field of dentistry, new technology is constantly changing the way diseases are diagnosed, routine procedures are performed, and illnesses are prevented. Although they may seem unfamiliar at first, new and improved dental technologies offer plenty of real benefits for patients. Here's a look at some of the latest examples, coming soon to (or now appearing at) our dental office.
- Air Abrasion Technology. Bothered by the noise and vibration of the dental drill? This air-powered device could make that familiar high-pitched whine a thing of the past! Working like a mini-sandblaster for teeth, this hand-held device removes tiny amounts of tooth material with precision control.
- Anesthesia Wand. If you don't like needles, this may be just what the doctor ordered: a pen-like device that meters out the precise amount of anesthetic you need — and even pre-numbs the insertion site, so you really won't feel a thing!
- CAD/CAM Same-day Crown Fabrication. Hate to wait? By combining 3-D digital imaging and computer-aided design and manufacturing technology, it's now possible to have permanent crown restorations completed in a single day — much better than leaving the office with temporary crowns and coming back weeks later for permanent ones!
- Cone Beam CT Imaging. What's better than an x-ray of your teeth? An on-screen, movable 3-D representation of your jaws! By taking a series of x-ray “slices” and stitching the images together with a powerful computer program, Cone Beam CT imaging creates a virtual model of your mouth. It can be used to find disease, plan procedures, and visualize internal structures that formerly wouldn't have been visible without surgery.
- Dental Implants. Tooth replacement took a giant leap forward with the widespread use of dental implants — today's preferred method of replacing teeth. Dental implants are small titanium posts that replace the root part of your missing tooth. A realistic dental crown is then attached to the implant for a replacement tooth that looks and feels exactly like what nature gave you.
- Digital Dental Impressions. Remember biting down on a tray of putty-like material, so a model could be made of your teeth? A digital imaging device now makes that unnecessary. Instead, your teeth can be “dusted” with a fine reflective powder, which is then recorded by a special camera. A series of images is converted into a 3-D model, which can be used to assess a tooth's condition or fabricate dental restorations.
- Digital X-Rays. Diagnostic x-rays have long been invaluable to dentistry. The emergence of digital technology in the past decade, however, has made dental x-rays safer and even more useful. Digital technology cuts radiation exposure to patients by as much as 90% over traditional x-rays. And there are other advantages including the elimination of waiting time for pictures to develop, and sharper images that can be enhanced instantly to show detail.
- Intra-Oral Camera. A picture is worth… plenty, when it comes to helping you understand your dental examination, diagnosis and treatment! With these tiny cameras, you can see what the dentist sees, on a small chair-side monitor. The images of your teeth can be saved as stills or video — or even printed out — so you can see exactly what's happening in your mouth.
- Laser Diagnosis and Treatment. They're inside DVD players and scanner wands — and now, they are making their dental debut. Lasers are being used to detect tiny spots of tooth decay, treat gum disease, and remove cancerous cells in the mouth. They are also employed in gum surgery… even cavity treatments!
Can you imagine the day your dentist actually grows you a new tooth to replace one that has been lost? Can you conceive of the day when dentists protect babies from tooth decay before they even have teeth? Learn more about these exciting innovations — they're closer than you think... Read Article
Dental Implants – Your Best Option For Replacing Teeth
Dental implants have many advantages over older methods of tooth replacement like bridges and dentures — from the way they function and feel to the way they look and last. Vigorous research has documented and confirmed that in the right situations, dental implant success rates are over 95%. It is no exaggeration to say that they have revolutionized dentistry. They may even change your life... Read Article
A tooth that has been structurally damaged by decay or trauma sometimes needs to be crowned or “capped” so that it can look good and function properly again. A crown is a durable covering that is custom-made to fit over the entire tooth from the gum line up. Crown fabrication traditionally takes Read more
They are inside your laptop computer and your DVD player, present on the factory floor and the supermarket checkout line. And now, lasers are finding increasing use in dentistry. Someday soon, you may have a routine dental procedure performed with the aid of a powerful, yet highly controllable beam of Read more
Laser technology is becoming quite commonplace in a wide variety of areas throughout the healthcare industry; but did you know that it can now be used to detect tooth decay? Today, using a small, handheld device, it is possible to detect tooth decay that is not yet visible and would otherwise be undiagnosed Read more
The intra-oral camera is a valuable tool dental professionals can use to help you understand your examination, diagnosis and treatment. This small, handheld video camera is about the same size as a dental mirror (or an oversized pen) and comes with a disposable plastic sheath for contamination prevention. Read more
In the future, could small cavities be detected early and filled without anesthesia, and with only the minimum removal of tooth material? Will routine dental procedures be performed with patients noticing no vibration or pressure? Will the piercing whine of a dental drill be a sound that's heard in dental Read more
It's almost impossible to imagine the practice of dentistry without x-ray technology. Radiographs (x-ray pictures) allow dentists to diagnose and treat problems not yet visible to the naked eye, including early tooth decay, gum disease, abscesses and abnormal growths. There is no question that since Read more
For years, whenever you needed a dental crown (cap), your dentist had to make molds of your teeth which required taking an impression of your teeth. A tray filled with a goopy, putty-like material was used so that a three-dimensional model of the prepared tooth could be created. Using this mold, a dental Read more
In the early 20th Century, not long after X-rays were discovered, medical professionals recognized their value as diagnostic tools: They could clearly reveal structures hidden inside the body without the need for risky surgery. At the dawn of the 21st century, a revolutionary new technology has entered Read more
If you've ever had needle phobia, you might like to learn about a new technology referred to as an “anesthesia wand,” which is a computer-controlled dental-injection tool. In fact, some people feel it is more of a “magic” wand because it doesn't look like a typical injection and it works even Read more