Why Dentists Recommend Cone Beam CT Scans

Posted on: 15 July 2015


Dental cone beam computed tomography (CT) is a special imaging procedure that is increasingly popular with dentists and orthodontists. Dental cone beam CT scans offer several benefits over other imaging techniques, allowing dentists to accurately diagnose and deal with a range of conditions. Learn more about how cone beam CT scans work, and find out why this technology is so beneficial in modern dentistry.

How cone beam CT scans work

Doctors have used computed tomography scans for many years. Conventional CT scanning machines pass a patient through a circular opening, while a source creates a fan-shaped beam of X-rays that pass through a section of the body. A special detector device then registers these X-rays and creates a series of cross-sectional images of the patient's body.

Cone beam CT scans work in a similar way. Cone beam CT scanners rotate around the patient's head, capturing a series of images with a cone-shaped X-ray beam. A computer then collates these images to create a three-dimensional image of the patient's teeth, jaws, neck, ears, nose and throat.

Why dentists recommend cone beam CT scans

Dentists use cone beam CT images to diagnose and treat many dental conditions. Cone beam CT scans can help your dentist:

  • Detect and treat jaw tumors
  • Diagnose temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Carry out cephalometric analysis of the skull
  • Improve the quality of reconstructive surgery

The image that a cone beam CT scan produces is often more useful than other imaging techniques. Indeed, cone beam CT scan images can greatly improve the quality of care your dentist is able to give you.

Why cone beam CT scans are so useful

Cone beam CT scans are particularly useful because the final images give the dentist a detailed view of the bone and soft tissue. With one scan, the dentist can look at a range of views and angles of the affected area in three-dimensional detail. No other imaging technology allows this.

Cone beam CT scans help orthodontists visualize problems that erupted and non-erupted teeth can cause. Other two-dimensional scans don't allow these specialists to build complex models that adequately show the effects that problem teeth can have on occlusion. What's more, a one beam CT scan can help an orthodontist look at problems with jaw symmetry in children and develop solutions that can restore normal tooth development.

Some dental procedures are complex and rely on precise, delicate dentistry. For example, wisdom teeth sit close to the mandibular nerve. Paresthesia (damage to the nerve) can sometimes occur during a wisdom tooth extraction, and some people never recover from the symptoms. Cone beam CT scans can help dentists see exactly where the nerve lies in relation to the wisdom tooth, and they can then plan treatment that minimizes any risk of damage.

When it comes to dental implants, many dentists now automatically recommend a cone beam CT scan to patients. With multiple 3-D images, dentists can create perfectly sized implants, which greatly reduce the risk of failure.

Benefits of cone beam CT scans—the patient's perspective

Cone beam CT imaging also works well for patients. These diagnostic scans are simple to carry out, and a technician can normally carry out the procedure in a single outpatient visit to the dentist or orthodontist's surgery. In fact, a single scan only takes around 40 seconds to complete, so you don't need to worry about time away from work or other daily duties. What's more, the process is completely painless and non-invasive, so you have no unwanted side effects to think about, either.

Dentists increasingly use cone beam CT scans to diagnose and treat a number of conditions. If you have any concerns about a proposed cone beam CT scan, learn more by talking to your dentist or orthodontist.