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Visualizing the Invisible with Cone-beam Computed Tomography

Dental imaging evolves with technological innovation. In the 21st century, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is the go-to dental imaging technology for general and cosmetic dentistry.

What is a CBCT Test?

Cone-beam Computed Tomography or CBCT test is a specialized type of dental imaging that uses cone-shaped x-ray beams. This system creates detailed three-dimensional (3D) images of the teeth, oral and maxillofacial region, ears, nose, and throat. With CBCT, your Toronto dentist can scan, visualize, and analyze facial bones, soft tissues, and nerve pathways to determine potential dental issues. CBCT comes in handy in situations where traditional computed tomography (CT) dental x-rays are not sufficient. In addition, it is now an invaluable tool for radiology in dental implantology, endodontics, and other procedures.

Here is everything you need to know about CBCT for dentistry:

What is the difference between CT and CBCT?

CBCT is a variation of traditional CT machines. The main difference between CT and CBCT scans is how they work. A CT scan uses rotating fan-shaped x-ray beams and requires patients to move toward the machine. On the other hand, CBCT's cone-shaped area detector allows for imaging without the need for movement. In addition, CT scanners use high-output anode x-ray tubes, while CBCT utilizes low-power fluoroscopy tubes. This technology allows a CBCT scanner to generate high-quality images with lower doses of radiation than a traditional CT scan.

What does a dental CBCT show?

The main advantage of CBCT is its ability to visualize the unseen. CBCT images show more information than traditional periapical radiographs. With a single CBCT scan, your dentist can analyze tooth decay, bone loss, temporomandibular joint irregularities, impacted teeth, abnormal growths, facial fractures, and more. Does CBCT show infection? Yes, it does. A CBCT scan can detect periodontal infections and teeth infections or abscesses early enough before they become problematic.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CBCT in Dentistry

Both CBCT scanners and traditional CT systems are used in dentistry for scanning and imaging. However, CBCT x-rays offer more benefits and fewer disadvantages than CT scans.

What are the advantages of CBCT?

  • Cone-beam computed topography has lower radiation exposure than CT scans.

  • CBCT machines can scan bone and soft tissue at the same time.

  • A single CBCT scan can visualize surrounding structures from different angles.

  • CBCT produces high-quality 3D images, reducing the risk of misdiagnosis.

  • Unlike CT scans, CBCT is convenient because it does not require patients to move.

  • CBCT 3D images provide more information than CT scans, ideal for treatment planning.

  • A CBCT scan is cost-effective and safe for patients of all ages.

What are the disadvantages of CBCT?

  • CBCT emits higher radiation doses than 2D imaging.

  • CBCT scans are more complex than traditional x-rays and require accurate calibration of contrast and brightness to deliver quality 3D images.

Contraindications of CBCT can deny some patients access to this dental topography tool.

The benefits of using CBCT outweigh the disadvantages. To avoid unnecessary risks, choose the right clinic for CBCT scanning and dental care.

CBCT Applications in Dentistry

CBCT's cone-shaped x-ray beams move around the patient and capture more information than a conventional CT scan. Then, the system uses the data to reconstruct 3D images of hard and soft tissues. The additional information provided by CBCT scans allows general and cosmetic dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons to diagnose and treat different dental conditions more effectively. Here are four examples of CBCT dental applications:

Dental Implants:

Dental implantation procedures involve the surgical placement of artificial roots into the jaw bone. Your Toronto dentist can use CBCT for dental implants to analyze the damage and visualize vital structures around implant sites. In addition, CBCT for implant planning provides critical information to guide surgeons through the entire procedure. Radiology in dental implantology eliminates guesswork and increases the success of implant placement.

Root Canal Treatment:

Traditional dental x-rays compress anatomical structures into a single 2D picture. Distorted 2D images of root canals increase the risk of misinterpretation and inaccurate diagnosis. CBCT in endodontics allows for the visualization of the complex anatomy of a root canal system. It produces high-quality 3D images that show the location of the infection and vital anatomical structures with pinpoint accuracy. Your Toronto Dentist can also use CBCT images to plan and execute complex root canal treatments.

Oral Surgery:

Oral surgeons use CBCT x-rays for examinations before commencing complex surgical procedures. Patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease can benefit from 3D technology. CBCT scans of TMJ provide a 3D reconstruction of jaw joints, teeth, airways, and sinuses, allowing for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Your Toronto oral surgeon (Dr. Johnson) can use this information for treatment planning and ensure the safe extraction of impacted teeth.


Orthodontists use CBCT scans to examine patients' bone growth and development. If your teeth are impacted, CBCT x-rays can visualize how your teeth anchor to the jaw. This information will help your Toronto orthodontist to realign your teeth and bite accurately and safely.

How much does a CBCT scan cost?

The cost of CBCT scans in Toronto varies depending on several factors. On average, CBCT for dentistry costs $350 per scan. But you can pay $200 or more than $500 per CBCT scan, depending on the complexity of the procedure. In addition, most dental insurance policies don't cover CBCT scans. However, a CBCT scan may be the only difference between success and failure. So, paying $350 per CBCT scan is worth it.

Is a CBCT scan necessary for the root canal?

CBCT is not a screening tool for root canals. So, you won't need a CBCT scan for every root canal. However, computed tomography in endodontics is essential for patients with curved or complicated root canals. A CBCT scan can show additional information to help your endodontist remove all infected pulp without damaging critical nerves. Having a CBCT scan before a root canal removes the guesswork from the equation and improves the outcome of root canal treatments.

Is CBCT scan safe?

When it comes to dental tomography, radiation exposure is the primary risk factor—the lower the radiation levels, the safer the scan. Radiation exposure from CT scanning is around 400-1000 µSv, about ten times higher than CBCT dental scanning. So, a CBCT scan is safer than CT imaging. But exposing the oral and maxillofacial region to radiation comes with some risks. To minimize radiation exposure, choose the right dental clinic.

Why Toronto Smile Design - Yorkville Dental?

Dr. Johnson Ozgur is a Toronto dentist with a Master's Degree in Oral Surgery. He has years of experience in General Dental Care and Cosmetic Dentistry, experienced in oral surgeries, root canals, dental implants, TMJ treatments, porcelain veneers, and more. For professional dental care services, contact Toronto Smile Design - Yorkville Dental today!


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