Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) as the name indicates uses cone shaped X-ray beam for obtaining images using high quality detector systems, powerful computers and software programs with suitable algorithms. CBCT technology is preferred by many practices due to its 3D radiographic assessment with a lower dose of radiation and reduced scanning time compared to conventional CT scans.
This technology is initially used for diagnostic imaging of hard tissues mainly craniofacial skeleton. Today, this advanced cone beam principle is applied to the other fields and is securing its place in many radiology practices.
CBCT provides a multi-planar 3D imaging in a single 360 degree scan whereas conventional CT results in an axial slice using fan beam. The images will have much higher resolution due to the smaller field of view than conventional CT. Although the contrast resolution was found to be lower than conventional CT scans, the high diagnostic quality images are produced in a shorter scanning time which is extremely useful for dental practitioners. The radiation dose is higher than conventional panoramic X-ray but is lower compared to conventional CT scans, which is the standard imaging technique used in many practices today.
Unlike conventional CT equipment, cone beam equipment is cost-effective, portable and easy to maintain. Its application is not just limited to orthodontics but is also developed for viewing the minute internal structures of ENT, spine imaging, extremity imaging and imaging arteries using contrast agents (angiography). Efforts are made by the radiologists towards the development of this technology for soft tissue imaging.
Despite low soft tissue contrast, this technology has many advantages in clinical practice and experts believe that it is more likely to replace conventional CT eventually. As of now, CBCT technique is most commonly used for 3D imaging in dental care.
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