If traditional x-rays are like a paper map for your teeth, then cone beam x-rays are the Google Earth map of your mouth.
Good treatment starts with good information. When dental x-rays first became available, they were a valuable tool to help diagnose patients. Procedures and technology have both radically improved since then, but we can still only diagnose things that we can see.
X-rays work because they are a wavelength of light that can pass through soft tissues in the body. When they run into hard tissues, such as your teeth, they can’t penetrate, and the density of the material is reflected on the resulting image.
Sometimes a regular x-ray doesn’t give us enough information. Traditional images are only two-dimensional, so they aren’t always the best for complex cases like dental implants, surgery, or evaluating tissues and tooth orientation in your mouth.
Cone beam x-rays are a special form of imaging that allow a three-dimensional look into the patient’s mouth, providing for better observation of bony characteristics, facial structure, and other parts of oral anatomy.
Is That From Star Trek or Something?
Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) machines do look pretty futuristic. Rather than “snapping a picture” of the patient, the CBCT system rotates around the patient’s head. Cone-shaped x-ray beams provide the data needed to reconstruct a very informative 3-D image of the mouth.
If you remember the creation of the action film The Matrix, the production team used dozens of cameras to encircle an actor, capturing the shot from many angles to create “bullet time.” CBCT follows the same principle, but instead the machine captures hundreds of images as it rotates around the patient’s head, and we use software to assemble the images into a 3-D form.
Cone beam x-rays evolved from CT scan imaging, in which a fan-shaped beam of radiation rotates around the patient. The scaled-down concept was applied to dental technology, and it brought a wave of benefits with it.
Besides providing accurate and detailed images, these scans are more cost efficient for the patient. Radiation exposure is also significantly lower than with traditional x-rays. Traditional full-mouth x-rays take up to 20 images of the teeth, but they are two-dimensional and suffer from some distortion. A single CBCT scan exposes the patient to a similar amount of radiation as a full-mouth, 20-image traditional x-ray series but provides hundreds of possible images to use.
Some Uses of Cone Beam X-Rays at Modern Dental in Boise
By using CBCT in our dental practice, we have improved our treatment in several areas.
Dental implants require us to insert a root replacement into the bone. We need to place these new titanium roots precisely, and the great scans that come from cone beam x-rays allow us to determine exactly where and how to place the implants.
Orthodontics treatment straightens teeth into the ideal position, but it can be tricky knowing how best to move teeth when relying on two-dimensional images. Cone beam x-rays show us the position of your teeth in three dimensions, improving the effectiveness of your orthodontics treatment.
In a root canal, we remove infected tissue from the root and replace it with a sterile filling. Cone beam x-rays significantly improve our visibility in the area, showing the shape and branches of the canals. The more precise the imaging, the better the treatment and the faster the recovery.
Modern Dental always strives to bring the most advanced treatments in dentistry to the Treasure Valley. Cone beam x-rays are just one of the many ways our Boise dentists provide the highest level of care for our patients. If you have any questions or concerns about x-rays, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss them with you.
-Dr. Travis Royce