Cone-Beam CT Scans in Orthodontics: How They Work and What They Reveal

April 11, 2023

Unlike patients receiving implants or endodontic treatment, most orthodontic patients are children who are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation. In this blog post, we'll explain how CBCT scans work and the types of information they can reveal. We'll also discuss the advantages of using CBCT scans for orthodontic treatments compared to traditional X-ray images.

Orthodontic patients that can benefit from CBCT imaging

CBCT has several recognized indications in orthodontics, such as the assessment of impacted and ectopic teeth, assessment of pharyngeal airway, assessment of mini-implant sites, evaluation of craniofacial abnormalities, evaluation of sinus anatomy or pathology, evaluation of root resorption, evaluation of the cortical bone plate, and orthognathic surgery planning and evaluation. 

For dentists and orthodontists who are interested in using Cone-Beam CT scans for their patients, there are several factors to consider.  First, it is important to understand when a scan is necessary.

In general, a scan should be used when a clear two-dimensional image cannot provide sufficient detail or accuracy for a diagnosis. Additionally, certain medical conditions may require a more precise image than a regular x-ray.  

Patients that may need a CBCT scan should be sure to look for an imaging provider that is MIPPA (Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act) compliant and received the RadSite Accreditation.

RadSite is a leading accreditation organization promoting quality-based imaging to improve the business, clinical, and quality practices of imaging centers.

MIPPA-compliant imaging providers will also have the most advanced imaging technologies available, making them the best choice for accurate and detailed imaging.

How is cone-beam CT used in orthodontics?

CBCT brings specific and unique diagnostic benefits in orthodontics. The most common indication for CBCT in orthodontics is the 3D assessment of anomalies in dental position such as impactions and ectopic teeth.

CBCT allows the visualization of impacted teeth in three dimensions, as well as the evaluation of roots of the impacted and adjacent teeth. CBCT can be prescribed for patients with facial asymmetry, cleft palate, or obstructive sleep apnea.

What are the benefits of cone-beam CT over traditional X-rays?

One of the great features of CBCT is its ability to construct different views, such as a panoramic view of the teeth and adjacent structures and another cephalometric view. Therefore, if a large volume CBCT is made, these views can be generally made without taking additional 2D panoramic and cephalometric radiographs.

Furthermore, the 3D representation allows greater accuracy in assessing root length, root angulation and soft tissue density measurements that cannot be easily obtained with traditional X-rays. This provides orthodontists with more detailed information about the anatomical relationships among the tooth roots and surrounding structures, aiding in diagnosis and treatment planning.

Are there any risks associated with cone-beam CT?

The most significant risk is the radiation exposure from the X-rays used to create the images. CBCT emits radiation doses that are lower than conventional medical CT scans, but it is still important to be aware of the risks and ensure that CBCT is used only when medically necessary. CBCT must be justified on a case-by-case basis and when it has the potential to improve diagnosis or treatment.

In order to minimize radiation exposure, Reveal Diagnostics dental imaging centers use specialized Safe Beam technology for optimizing the CBCT protocols to reduce dose without compromising image quality. This includes reducing the scan time, number of projections, and the mAs (milliampere-seconds) in order to minimize radiation dose while still producing clear images.

What the little patients can expect from their CBCT scan

Children may be anxious about undergoing any type of imaging scan, but CBCT scans are quick and easy. Most scans take less than a minute and require no special preparation. During the scan, patients will be asked to remain still while the scanning machine rotates around their head. It’s important to remain as still as possible so that the image produced is as accurate as possible.

After the scan is complete, they can return to their normal activities.

The images produced by CBCT scans are extremely detailed and allow orthodontists to view both the teeth and surrounding bones. This gives them a better idea of how to best treat each individual patient. It also helps them to plan for the most effective treatment and create a timeline for each patient’s care.

Ultimately, CBCT scans provide orthodontists with the information they need to provide personalized care for each patient.

Resources From Our Blog

Do Chiropractors Take X-rays? Everything You Need to Know About Chiropractic Imaging
Bitewing X-rays: What They Are And Why Your Dentist Recommends Them
Dental X-Rays While Pregnant – Is it Safe?
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