Dental cone beam CT scan (CBCT)

A dental cone beam CT scan is a type of CT scan. It is sometimes called a CBCT scan. This is a quick and painless test.

The scan creates 3D images of your jaws and teeth. It does this using X-rays and information on a computer.

The cone-shaped X-ray beam has a lower amount (dose) of radiation than a typical CT scan. This means that it is safer.

The scan gives us information that we cannot get from usual X-rays. For example, we can check the exact shape of the bone in your jaw. This helps us to decide if you are suitable for dental implants.

Radiation from a cone beam CT scan

Background radiation (energy given out as particles or waves) is always there in our everyday environment.

A typical CT scan of the jaw gives about the same amount of radiation that you would get in 63 to 154 days.

A cone beam CT scan of the jaw gives about the same amount of radiation that you would get in 6 to 30 days. This is much lower than for a standard CT scan of the same area.

Preparing for your scan

Please tell the radiographer (the healthcare professional who does your scan) if you might be pregnant.

If you are having the scan to plan dental implants, we might ask you to bring a 'localisation stent' with you. This is a special plate that you wear like a denture. It has markers to guide the X-ray scan. You only need to wear this during the scan.

  • Make sure that you wear loose-fitting clothes around your neck for the scan. Avoid polo neck jumpers or ties.
  • Remove jewellery around your head and neck, such as earrings, studs, necklaces, hair clips or any other metal accessories.
  • Remove your glasses, dentures or hearing aids before the scan.

You do not need any injections or special preparations for this scan.

During the scan

Your cone beam CT scan takes about 30 minutes.

  • You sit in the scanner.
  • We carefully position your head and ask you to keep still while we take the scan. Try not to swallow, talk or move your jaw during the scan.
  • The scanner moves around your head in a circle.
  • Each scan takes less than a minute.
  • You might need more than 1 scan. This depends on the reason for your test.

This scan is not painful. You need to stay still for the scan.

If you are claustrophobic (anxious when in a small and closed space), please tell the radiographer. They can then give you support and advice.

Photographic scanning of your face

We might take a photographic scan of your face during your cone beam CT scan. We talk to you about this and ask for your permission (consent) first.

We dim the lights in the room and the machine gives off flashing lights during this type of scan. We ask you to stand still and keep your eyes open. This part of the test does not use X-rays.

After the scan

After the scan, you can leave the hospital immediately.

You do not need any special aftercare. You can eat, drink and continue all your usual activities.

Specialists write a report about your scan. We send this report to the healthcare professional who referred you.

If you have any problems after your cone beam CT scan, you can contact our department.

Outside of working hours, go to 111.nhs.uk, call 111 or visit your nearest emergency department (A&E) if you are worried.

Follow-up appointment

You do not usually have a follow-up appointment in our department. However, you might have one with the healthcare professional who referred you for the scan.

Other options (alternatives)

You can choose to have a standard CT scan, but this gives a higher amount of radiation.

You can also choose not to have a scan at all. However, dental X-ray pictures may not show the bone in your jaw accurately enough to allow safe treatment.

We want to involve you in decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to have a cone beam CT scan, we ask you to sign a consent form. This says that you agree to have the test and understand what it involves.

If you would like more information about our consent process, please speak to a member of staff caring for you.

Resource number: 3072/VER4
Last reviewed: December 2020
Next review due: December 2023

Contact us

If you have any questions, you can contact the dental scanning department.

Phone: 020 7188 1872, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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