At the end of the millennium, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) heralded a new dental technology for the next century. Owing to the dramatic and positive impact of CBCT on implant dentistry and orthognathic/orthodontic patient care, additional applications for this technology soon evolved. New software programs were developed to improve the applicability of, and access to, CBCT for dental patients. Improved, rapid, and cost-effective computer technology, combined with the ability of software engineers to develop multiple dental imaging applications for CBCT with broad diagnostic capability, have played a large part in the rapid incorporation of CBCT technology into dentistry.
The use of cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) imaging in the dental profession has blossomed since its inception 15 years ago. CBCT unit design has undergone many changes that enhance CBCT access and practical utility in dentistry. The scanners have become smaller, scan patients in an upright position, use primarily flat panel detectors, and readily convert projection data to DICOM file formats. Units themselves have various scanning options that include the size of the area to be scanned (field of view [FOV]), voxel size (spatial resolution), bit depth (contrast resolution), and scan times (frame rate).
CBCT manufacturers have incorporated various aspects of imaging technology in a cost-effective, efficient, and practical manner. There are now numerous CBCT applications in many software formats that are helpful in a multitude of dental disciplines including but not limited to dentoalveolar disease and anomalies, vertical root and dentin fractures, jaw tumors, prosthodontic evaluations, and advances in orthodontic/orthognathic and implant patient evaluations. The latter also include mechanisms for surgical and prosthodontic splint design and the capability of CBCT scan data to bridge with computer-aided design/manufacturing image files for the fabrication of various dental restorations.
Streaking and beam hardening remain as ominous imaging artifact that compromise CBCT utility in various case situations. However, because of the popularity of CBCT, computer hardware and software developers, machine manufacturers and dental researchers will continue to improve the applications of this imaging modality for the betterment of patient care.