“Cone beam” computed tomography gives oral surgeons a window into teeth and jaws.
At the start of medical imagery, there were X-rays. Machines utilizing them have been an everyday occurrence in the medical profession for decades. X-rays have allowed doctors and surgeons to take a look inside the human body without ever making a cut.
The field of radiology has come a long way since the beginning of X-ray imagery. There are a variety of medical imaging techniques and new devices that are gaining ground worldwide. One relative new addition to this growing list of imaging techniques is cone beam computed tomography, or CBCT.
CBCT technology was introduced commercially in the United States in the early 2000s. It didn’t long to catch on, and by 2005, researchers were reporting in medical journals that cone beam computed tomography was here to stay.
The cone beam computed tomography device combines the visibility of old-fashioned X-rays with the raw data power of modern-day computers. It encircles the patient’s jaws and teeth, taking a series of images using cone-shaped X-rays. The process only takes a minute or so, and the large allotment of images – called a “volumetric data set” – is processed and strung together into a single three-dimensional image.
It’s that 3-D capability that gives a far better view of a patient’s teeth and jaws. In addition to the incredible image, oral surgeons and dentists alike have the ability to rotate the image in any direction as needed. Surgeons getting ready to perform a dental implant placement or facial reconstruction procedure appreciate that dynamic view of the patient’s oral composition prior to surgery. Conditions ranging from oral cysts, impacted teeth or anything else surgeons need to see are very clear under the cone beam device.
Today, CBCT is in regular use in numerous medical offices, and you can find it in our office as well. Advances and improvements in cone beam technology are announced regularly – including one announcement from a CBCT maker in 2011. The latest device cut radiation exposure by more than 50 percent! (The FDA advises that people under 21 to avoid all forms of radiation exposure unless medically necessary, but has also determined that radiation doses from dental CBCT exams are safe.)
Cone beam computed tomography may be just another part in the long history of medical advancements – but for us, it’s a welcomed one that improves our patient care.