Getting The Full Picture With Cone Beam Dental Scans
Making The Invisible, Visible — The Many Advantages Of 3-D Images
CBCT vs. MRI: Alternate Routes To A 3-D Image
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is another 3-D imaging method you may have heard about. Like CBCT, MRI allows a doctor to look inside your body without performing surgery. Both also use computers to assemble and interpret vast amounts of data produced during scans of a particular area of the body. But the similarities end there.
CBCT uses ionizing radiation (x-rays) to penetrate body tissues. Digital sensors measure the different levels of x-ray absorption by tissues of different densities to create a picture on a computer screen. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to vibrate the hydrogen atoms of the water molecules inside body tissues. The vibrations will differ depending on how much water is in each tissue. The radio frequencies of those vibrations are received and translated by a computer to form a picture. The patient is not exposed to any ionizing radiation during this process.
So why not use MRIs instead of CBCTs and avoid the x-ray exposure? The main reason is that an MRI, with its detailed views of soft tissues, doesn't give the dentist as detailed a picture as necessary of teeth and bone; and this is exactly what's needed to diagnose dental disease and plan treatment or surgery. Also, MRIs take longer, are more expensive, and involve much larger machines.
If you have any questions about which imaging method would be best for you, be sure to ask your dentist.
Applications in Dentistry
The additional information from a CBCT scan can make all the difference in some clinical situations, and remember, a doctor's treatment can be limited when he or she treats what he/she doesn't know about. Here are some examples of CBCT use for different dental applications:
Can CBCT Help Me?
That's a question only your dentist can answer, based on his or her evaluation of your unique situation and health history. CBCT offers a fast, thorough, non-invasive means of obtaining detailed information. Remember, however, that any source of radiation exposure carries at least some small risk. The fact that today's technology is digital has reduced the exposure significantly but it should still be used only when necessary diagnostically. It's always a good idea to review the risks, benefits and alternatives to any imaging procedure with your dentist before it is performed.