CBCT 3D Digital Imaging


Cone beam imaging, while a relatively new technology to dentistry, has already radically transformed the way that we as dentists can gather information, with the result being an ability to diagnose and treatment plan in a manner that previously could not even be imagined. The transformation from interpreting two-dimensional information to diagnosing from 3-D imaging, which allows for visualization of all structures in any given field, is a quantum leap ... and one that has forever altered the way we must practice dentistry.

Cone Beam Volumetric Tomography is a diagnostic imaging technology that uses radiation in a manner similar to conventional radiographic imaging, with the difference being that cone beam images are converted into a three-dimensional view that can then be manipulated by sophisticated computer software for a wide variety of applications, including implant, orthodontic, orthognathic TMJ, and diagnostic purposes.

Cone beam imaging evolved from the work by Godfrey Hounsfield in the 1970s with the development of CAT Scan imaging in medicine. CAT Scans, or Computerized Axial Tomography, utilize a fan-shaped beam of radiation that rotates around the patient hundreds of times per second, with the patient being moved a precise distance in the scanner. Cone beam differs in that cone beam scans use a cone-shaped beam that is directed at a detector that rotates around the patient. Unlike CAT scans, these can be applied to dental practices.

The units themselves can be similar in size to dental panoramic and cephalometric units. Cone beam units are within the range of affordability for dental practices. Patient radiation exposure is significantly lower, as is the cost per image to patients. The technology is relatively easy to implement and use, and accuracy and precision is high with a 1:1 display of dental structures. The technology is easy to learn, and the software applications accessible for dentistry are extensive. The end result for dentistry is an affordable means of elevating the level of diagnostic abilities within the dental practice. 

With cone beam-produced images, hundreds of “slices” of information are gathered and assembled by software into three-dimensional views of any aspect of any given study. Data can be imported into software, such as Romexis by Planmeca, for the purpose of comprehensive diagnostic analysis and pre-surgical treatment planning, as well as for the production of stereolithographic bio-models. Cone beam images are reconstructed by software into three-dimensional planes, each of which allow for interaction and manipulation. The diagnostician has the ability to specify precisely which section of the study will be visualized in each plane.