What Is Cone Beam 3D Imaging And What’s It Used For?


We invest in technology so you’ll have a comfortable visit while reaching your oral health goals. That’s why we offer cone-beam 3D imaging and panoramic x-rays right here at our 68th Street location.

Cone beams:

This relatively new technology allows dentists to see clear, detailed, three-dimensional images of your teeth, bones, and soft tissue. It’s called a cone-beam because the x-ray beam is literally in the shape of a cone, where traditional CT scans use fan shaped x-ray beams. The machine takes nearly 600 “slices” of information about your mouth which special software assembles into convenient three-dimensional views. Your dentist can then move these images around to see every angle. Cone beams are particularly helpful for things like seeing exactly how close a wisdom tooth is to the nerves and arteries in your jaw, or precisely how much bone is present to support an implant. We might want to take a 3D image for some of the following reasons:

  • Accurate placement of implants
  • Determining if a root canal is your best treatment option
  • Planning for extractions, especially of impacted teeth
  • Evaluation of your sinuses
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fractures
  • Diagnosing TMJ issues
  • Getting to the bottom of undiagnosed pain

Panoramic x-rays AKA “panos” :

Panoramic x-rays are two-dimensional images that capture the entire mouth in one picture. It includes the teeth, upper and lower jaws, and surrounding structures and tissues. Because it covers a wider area than a conventional x-ray, it shows more information about the sinuses, tooth positioning, and other bone abnormalities. A panoramic x-ray might be used for:

  • Treatment planning dentures
  • Certain Invisalign cases
  • Planning for extractions and implants
  • Assessing advanced periodontal disease
  • Jaw disorders or TMJ disorders
  • Sinusitis

Not everyone who sees us will need one of these speciality imaging studies, and they are not a substitute for traditional two-dimensional dental x-rays. We’ll only use this kind of imaging when it is a diagnostic tool that’s medically necessary. Getting a cone beam 3D image taken is easy and takes less than a minute – total! There’s no discomfort or special preparation. We’ll just ask that you take off any metal jewelry to make sure we get the best image possible. We run daily and weekly checks to the machine to ensure that it’s in tip-top shape. The machine does all the work for you, rotating around 360 degrees to capture all angles. Unlike a traditional intraoral x-ray where the digital “film” is placed inside of the mouth, the film here is contained inside of the machine.

Most dental insurance companies still do not cover special scans, but we have a special reduced fee for people whose insurance won’t help with the cost.

You should be aware that our dentists are looking at the image for specific information to help them plan the right treatment for you. If you’d like a licensed radiologist to read your scan to look for any other signs of disease, we’re happy to offer that for a small additional fee of exactly what the radiologist charges us.

This post should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately licensed health care provider. Information provided here is for informational purposes only. Although we attempt to provide accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee is made to that effect. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. This site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment.

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