Dental cone beam computed tomography (CT) is a special type of x-ray machine used in situations where regular dental or facial x-rays are not sufficient. It is not used routinely because the radiation exposure from this scanner is significantly more than regular dental x-rays. This type of CT scanner uses a special type of technology to generate three dimensional (3-D) images of dental structures, soft tissues, nerve paths and bone in the craniofacial region in a single scan. Images obtained with cone beam CT allow for more precise treatment planning.
Cone beam CT is not the same as conventional CT. However, dental cone beam CT can be used to produce images that are similar to those produced by conventional CT imaging.
You will be asked to sit in the exam chair or lie down on the exam table, depending on the type of cone beam CT scanner being used. Your dentist or oral surgeon will position you so that the area of interest is centered in the beam. You will be asked to remain very still while the x-ray source and detector revolve around you for a 360-degree rotation or less. This typically can take between 20 to 40 seconds for a complete volume, also called a full mouth x-ray, in which the entire mouth and dental structures are imaged, and less than 10 seconds for a regional scan that focuses on a specific area of the maxilla or mandible
You will not experience any pain during a cone beam CT exam, and you will be able to return to your normal activities once the exam is complete.
A cone beam CT examination requires no special preparation.
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