Imagine the difference between looking at a photo of an object, like a building for example, and handling a complete model of the same building. The photo only allows you to see one side of the building. The model allows you to see the building from any direction and determine depth and relationships which would be impossible using just the photo.
One of the most important concepts to understand with Cone Beam CT is that the user is imaging a volume (like the model building), not just a single plane (like the photo of the building). However in actual use it is even better. That is because the user can not only view the model building from any angle but the user can view inside the building as if the building was sliced with a band saw to expose a cross section. These band saw slices can be made at any angle, at any depth and can be viewed as a series of slices as if the user was slowly passing right through the building.
Another great feature of CT is that images can be enhanced to show both hard and soft tissue. As a result the user can actually see the overlying facial features or just the teeth and bones.
The advanced diagnostic possibilities are unlimited. At this time the primary use of Cone Beam CT is for pre surgical implant assessment. A skilled radiologist can show the surgeon exactly where the implant could be placed, what structures to avoid, how thick the bone is, if the ridge is sharp or flat and anything else the surgeon might need to know. It is as if the surgeon could peel back the tissue and examine the bone from every angle inside and out before ever starting the procedure.
Other advanced diagnostic uses include TMJ imaging, endodontic tooth morphology, surgical planning for bony lesions, periodontal bone loss and furcation evaluation, sinus evaluation, orthodontic assessment, and even caries evaluation.
Right now we are gathering so much new information with digital diagnostics we often don’t know what it means. The challenge at this time is for researchers and clinicians to determine what we are seeing and how it can be used most effectively.