When giving oral surgeons a window on teeth and jaws, nothing beats cone beam computed tomography
In the good ol’ days, there were only X-ray images. Machines using X-rays have been routine in the medical profession for decades, offering surgeons and doctors an accurate look inside the human body without ever making any invasive cuts.
CBCT technology was first introduced commercially in the early 2000s. It didn’t take too long for it to catch on; by 2005, researchers were reporting in medical journals that cone beam computed tomography was an innovative tool that was here to stay.
The field of radiology has come a long way since the first X-ray machine. A variety of new devices and medical imaging techniques have been developed and are gaining ground worldwide. One standout that has been added to this growing list of imaging techniques has turned out to be particularly helpful to us in our practices: cone beam computed tomography, or CBCT.
Cone beam computed tomography combines the raw view that old-fashioned X-rays offer with the data-combining power of modern, innovative computers. The device works by encircling the patient’s face to take a series of pictures of the teeth and jaws. The process is done in about a minute, and it produces a large sample of images simply described as a “volumetric data set.” This set of photos is processed and sewn together into one three-dimensional image.
It’s that 3D imaging ability that gives a far better view of a patient’s oral composition. With the capability to rotate the image in any direction as needed, we are able to enhance our preparation practices and perform dental implant or facial reconstruction procedures with a better view of the patient’s true condition prior to surgery.
Conditions like oral tumors, evidence of pathological processes, or anything else surgeons need to see are clearly displayed under the CBCT device. Now, CBCT is used regularly in the offices of oral and maxillofacial surgeons all over the United States, including here at Monroe Oral Maxillofacial & Implant Surgery. Advances and improvements in 3D technology are announced frequently, such as one announcement from a CBCT maker in 2011 that the latest device is able to cut radiation exposure by over 50 percent. (The FDA weighed in and determined that radiation doses from dental CBCT exams are safe to patients, although the FDA advises people under 21 should avoid all forms of radiation exposure unless medically necessary.)
While cone beam computed tomography may be considered just another technological advancement in the long history of medical improvements, for us, it’s one that is greatly appreciated to help us improve our best practices.