What is Cone Beam Computed Tomography and Why do Dentists Use it?

Since its introduction to the U.S. in 2001, Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) has become a staple in dentist offices across the country. At that time, cost and concern for office space and a learning curve had dentists up in arms about whether the change over from the traditional computed tomography (CT) was the best option. But by the time such researchers as the National Center for Biotechnology Information were performing their studies on the technology, most dentist’s realized that Cone Beam Computed Tomography was the best and most precise option for their patients.


Cone Beam Computed Tomography is a modern radiological imaging system designed for use on the maxilla-facial skeleton. It’s production of undistorted, three-dimensional images of a given area with a single pass make it ideal for detecting endodontic disease, and also offers superior imaging for orthodontic and dental implant purposes as well. What makes it’s imaging so unique is that it removes distracting or interfering oral structures so dentists can assess the bones and roots of the oral cavity. This allows for accurate dental treatment planning by providing exact sizes and site shape for implants and orthodontic treatment appliances.
Perhaps the best news about CBCT is its lowered radiation application to patients. In March 2003, Science Direct published a study that sought to compare CBCT and CT in relation to this. They used a five point evaluation method, one being patient under radiation doses from both machines. They found that with the CT, “the mean skin doses with the multi-detector CT were 458 mSv per examination, whereas the doses with the 3DX were 1.19 mSv per examination. These results clearly indicate the superiority of the 3DX in the display of hard tissues in the dental area while substantially decreasing the dose to the patient.”
Currently, low-cost and small-scale machines for use in medical and dental clinics are only possible due to recent technological developments according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. They include:


1. “First, compact and high-quality flat-panel detector arrays were developed.
2. Second, the computer power necessary for cone-beam image reconstruction has become widely available and is relatively inexpensive.
3. Third, x-ray tubes necessary for cone-beam scanning are orders-of-magnitude that are less expensive than those required for conventional CT.
4. Fourth, by focusing on head/neck scanning only, one can eliminate the need for sub-second gantry rotation speeds that are needed for cardiac and thoracic imaging. This significantly reduces the complexity and cost of the gantry.”

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