CBCT – will I grow an extra limb?

Posted on 28th October 2023

These are all of the considerations we make to ensure our patients are treated safely, with the latest technology and the best clinical outcomes.

With the advent of cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) in Dentistry, here at Infinity Dental Clinic we take great pride in assuring the safety of our patients with any form of radiation. CBCT machines capture data using a cone-shaped X-ray beam. As well as ensuring any images taken and their doses are justified, optimised and with limitation, we are constantly evaluating current evidence to ensure our patients receive the best practice.

Simply put, X-rays can cause damage to biological tissue. ‘Effective dose’ is the term used to quantify this and is measured numerically in microsieverts (µSv). This describes how radiation exposure from various sources leads to effects on different tissues of the body. Interestingly, here in the UK we actually receive on average 2200 µSv of background dose in a year simply from a combination of: food and drink, the atmosphere and medical sources but also with around 50% from radon gas. Anyone who’s bought a house knows a radon gas survey is issued with advice, precisely for this reason.

To try and contextualise the importance and relevance of effective dose; if you were to have a few too many drinks whilst out on a Saturday night and take a real tumble, this might lead to a visit to your local Accident and Emergency hospital department. If during a doctor’s assessment they have any inkling you might have a head injury or concussion, they might request for a ‘CT Head’ scan to be taken. Based on government guidance, the effective dose from a ‘CT Head’ (which will literally image everything in your head) is 2000 µSv – so essentially a year’s worth of background radiation.

Explaining this is not to scaremonger people from having a CT Head in an emergency – the risk of having a skull fracture or even swelling or bleeding of the brain is a far more immediate concern that would be debilitating/fatal if not detected with a CT Head.

However, when we see patients who we assess for dental implants, wisdom tooth extractions and sometimes even root canal treatment, often we would take a CBCT as this provides us with a 3D-visualisation of the relevant region for optimal case planning and treatment. The effective dose of our machine is 5-19 µSv depending on the type of scan you need – hurray! Taking a one-way flight from London to New York City leads to 32 µSv, so you can expect around half.

These are all of the considerations we make to ensure our patients are treated safely, with the latest technology and the best clinical outcomes.

Thank you for reading,

Dr Vinay Mistry BChD MJDF RCS Eng PGDip AFHEA

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