3D Dental Scan – What is Cone Beam CT?

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You've probably heard of a standard CT scan, which stands for "computed tomography" - a type of medical imaging that combines multiple X-ray measurements into virtual "slices" of an object, allowing the physician to see within the object without cutting into it. Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) is a sub-type of this imaging that is optimized for use in fields such as dentistry, orthodontics, oral surgery, and endodontics. Today We'll take a deeper dive into this unique technology that is becoming increasingly important in both the diagnosis and treatment of dental ailments.

What is a cone beam CT scan and how does it work?

CBCT scans are a relatively new technology. They produce 3D dental imaging using a rotating gantry attached to an X-ray source and detector. Due to the cone-shaped source of ionizing radiation that is directed through the area being examined, dental cone beam CTS produce hundreds of planar projection images during a single rotation. These 3D dental scans differ from traditional CT because their cone shape allows for the incorporation of the entire field of vision, whereas medical CTs use a fan-shaped beam that requires stacking individual image slices to create a 3D representation. Thus, cone beam imaging is easier to use, less expensive, and safer than traditional medical CT technology.

What does a cone beam scan show?

CBCT scans produce 3D dental X-ray images of the jaws and teeth. They enable physicians to see the exact shape of the bone, making it easier to assess the patient's potential response to dental implants or other specialty procedures. Dental CT scans allow for an extremely high level of accuracy that you won't get from a standard dental exam.

How much is a cone beam scan?

Dental cone beam CT scans typically cost between $100 and $500.

Is cone beam CT covered by insurance?

It depends on the type of plan and your insurance provider. If the CBCT scan is required for a documented medical purpose, as opposed to a dental purpose, the cost of the scan is generally covered. If the CBCT scan must be obtained for a dental purpose, most medical insurance plans will not provide coverage, but separate dental insurance is another option. The majority of CBCT scans fall under medical guidelines and are eligible for reimbursement through medical insurance. While submitting CBCT scans for dental insurance reimbursement is a relatively new concept, more and more insurance carriers are recognizing 3D teeth imaging as the standard of care for many dental procedures and diagnoses, and thus are providing reimbursement.

Cone beam CT is a safe and common imaging technique that is usually quick and painless. It helps ensure that your dentist or orthodontist gets the most accurate assessment possible of your teeth and jaws. Dental CT scans are inexpensive compared to other imaging technologies, and are often covered by medical or dental insurance. If you're still having trouble understanding how they work, check out this video of a CBCT scan being conducted. It helps to have a visual representation of this complex and amazing technology.