Dental X-rays are very useful in diagnosing a number of conditions. Decay, abscesses and bone structure can easily be seen using standard technology found at any dental office. However, X-rays are inherently limited: they can only show you a two dimensional image of a three dimensional object. In many instances, X-rays can visualize part of a problem, but leave out "the whole picture." How deep is that crack? Which tooth is draining to that abscess? Are there one or two canals in that root? For these questions, many dentists and specialists use Cone Beam CT technology.
Cone Beam CT (CBCT) is based on a principle called Computerized Tomography. Here, a series of low-radiation exposures are used to take "slices" that can assemble to a 3D image. Imagine looking at a apple, cut widthwise many times. If you saw each slice consecutively, you could easily surmise the 3D shape of the original apple. This is the same idea behind CBCT- many individual images are used to create a 3D representation of hard tissue. While a traditional X-ray might miss small problems (like a cracked root) or misrepresent sizes or shapes (like superimposing two root canals as one), a CBCT excels at giving us a more complete picture.
Many of the specialist we refer to utilize CBCT technology. For example, Doctors Bollinger, Cobin and Stoop at Conejo Simi Endontics use it to diagnose cracks, visualize root canals and determine the prognosis of treated teeth. CBCT is particularly useful for endodontics, as many problems are difficult or impossible to locate, even with high powered microscopes. Likewise, Dr. Wilgus at Camarillo Periodontics uses his CBCT machine to plan implant placement. Being able to see the height and width of bone along with any associated structures adds extra predictability to his surgeries.
It's easy to see how CBCT technology has made diagnosing dental conditions easier and more reliable. When we make referrals to our specialist network, we have these capabilities in mind- that these doctors have the technology to visualize problems that normal X-rays can't. If you would like to know more about Cone Beam technology and how it is used in dentistry, just give us a call!