From X-rays to three-dimensional images, nothing beats cone beam computed tomography
A relative newcomer to the medical imaging world, CBCT technology was introduced commercially in the United States in the early 2000s. But it didn’t take long for to catch on – by 2005 researchers were reporting that cone beam computed tomography was a unique tool for all surgeons.
Back in the day when there were only X-rays, these machines were conventional in the medical profession for decades, allowing doctors to take and in-depth look at the human body and the patient’s specific condition without ever having to take surgical steps.
Radiology has come a long way since the first X-ray image was produced, with a variety of new devices and medical imaging practices gaining ground worldwide. One new tool to add to this growing list of imaging devices has turned out to be very helpful to our oral surgery practice: cone beam computed tomography, or CBCT.
The cone beam computed tomography device combines the penetrating vision of old-fashioned X-rays with the raw data developed by modern-day computers. The cone beam encircles the patient’s face to cover the teeth and jaws, taking a series of images with cone-shaped X-rays. The process only takes about a minute to produce numerous images. The large photo sample is described as a “volumetric data set” which is then processed and put together into a single 3D image.
It’s the 3D composition that offers us a far better view of a patient’s teeth and mouth as a whole. With this type of image, we can rotate it in any direction as needed to gain a better view of the condition. In particular, this tool allows us to prepare for a variety of oral procedures, ranging in complexity. Addressing complex conditions is easier when we can see the image clearly under the device’s gaze.
CBCT is used every day in our practice to help guide us to the best treatment method for our patients. If you are wondering about the radiation exposure and safety of CBCT, there was actually a recent announcement in 2011 that its latest device cut radiation exposure by more than 50 percent. (The FDA concluded that radiation exposure from dental CBCT exams are safe, although if people under 21 can avoid all forms of radiation exposure, they should unless it’s medically necessary.)
CBCT may be seen as just another addition to the long history of medical development, but we appreciate its benefit to help us prepare and offer patients the best possible outcome from their treatment.