Dental cone beam computerised tomography (CBCT) scans

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A specific type of CT scan is used in dentistry; cone beam computerised tomography (CBCT) is used to produce detailed 3D images of the teeth, gums and jaws. These images are produced using cone-shaped X-ray beams and a computer. CBCT scanning is used rather than standard CT scanning because it emits a lower dose of radiation, which is safer when scanning the head and neck.

A CBCT scan involves sitting in a scanning unit; the operator will then direct you to ensure that your head is in the best position. When you are ready, the operator will start the scan and you simply have to stay as still as possible; the duration of the scan will depend on how many scans are required, but typically, procedures are compete within 10-30 minutes.

Why would I need a CBCT scan?

CBCT scans provided much greater detail than conventional dental X-rays and they can be used in treatment planning and diagnostics. CBCT scanning is often used during the preparatory stages of implant treatment; the detailed images allow dentists to assess the condition and quality of the bone tissue and identify optimum positions for the implants.

Are CBCT scans safe?

CBCT scans are safer than CT scans, as they give off a very low dose of radiation. CT scans, which are used routinely in medicine investigations, emit a dose of radiation, which equates to around 179-578 days worth of background radiation (radiation that you would be exposed to in your normal everyday surroundings); CBCT scans emit a dose equivalent to  just 12-30 days.

In some cases, CBCT scans and X-rays may not be recommended; your dentist will usually ask you some questions about your medical history in order to ascertain whether it is appropriate for you to have a scan. CBCT scans may not be recommended for pregnant women; tell your dentist or the radiographer if you think you may be pregnant.

Are CBCT scans painful?

No, you won’t feel any pain at all when you are having your scan; however, you will have to stay as still as possible. If you suffer from claustrophobia, having a scan may be daunting; speak to your radiographer if you have concerns or you feel anxious.

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