What is a CT Scan?
CT Scans use x-rays to produce images of bone and soft tissue. CT Scans are widely used in a hospital or radiology centers for many diagnostic purposes. They are useful in the head and neck region where high resolution and detail is necessary for evaluation of the bony anatomy, or detailed evaluation of abnormal findings. This type of x-ray produces multiple two dimensional images, or “slices”, that can be viewed independently or stitched together to form a three dimensional model of an area of interest in the body. This allows non-invasive evaluation of anatomy and specific areas of interest to assist the doctor in diagnosis and treatment planning.
What makes a Cone Beam CT Scan different?
A Cone Beam CT Scan uses a low powered cone shaped x-ray beam that is shaped to approximate the area of interest. The x-ray emitter and sensor rotate 360 degrees around the head to create a sequence of images. These images are then processed by a computer to create the two-dimensional and three-dimensional images. As the amount of radiation needed to produce the Cone Beam CT Scan is much lower, and the scan is limited to a smaller and more specific area of interest, the total radiation exposure is much less compared to a regular CT Scan. Depending on the type of scan needed, the radiation exposure can be 20 or 30 times less than a traditional CT Scan.
How is a Cone Beam CT Scan taken?
Cone Beam CT Scans are performed in our office. After Dr. Pitts has determined the area to be scanned, the radiology technician will escort you to the x-ray alcove. You will need to remove any jewelry, glasses, dentures, partial dentures, hearing aids or other items that might interfere with the scan. Settings will be made to the computer screen selecting the area to be scanned, and you will then be assisted in positioning your head in the machine. The machine is an “open design” and you will be in a standing position. You will be asked to bite on a thin acrylic plate that will help stabilize your head. The scan will then be started and takes only 30-40 seconds to complete. It is quick and easy. It does not require any medications to be taken prior to the scan or any intravenous contrast, as are sometimes required for traditional CT Scans.
Why is a Cone Beam CT Scan sometimes a necessary part of my evaluation?
The Cone Beam CT Scan can provide multiple perspectives of an area of interest that could not be visualized using standard x-ray techniques such as small individual dental x-rays or Panorex x-rays. Many times, standard x-rays cannot provide adequate diagnostic information to decide the need for treatment or assist in planning a surgical procedure. This technology also helps patients to visualize and understand the need for treatment or the proposed surgical plan.
When might it be necessary for me to have a Cone Beam CT Scan?
Some common uses of this Scan in our office would include:
- Determining the specific location of impacted teeth
- Evaluating important anatomic structures in an area of proposed surgery (i.e. nerves, sinus cavities, adjacent tooth roots)
- Identifying cysts, tumors or other abnormalities in the bone, such as extra teeth
- Planning the surgical exposure of impacted teeth for orthodontic eruption
- Evaluation of possible dental implant sites and implant planning
- Evaluation of the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)
- Planning for bone grafting or similar procedures
- Evaluation of the sinuses