Cone-beam computed tomography systems (CBCT) are a variation of traditional computed tomography (CT) systems. The CBCT systems used by dental professionals rotate around the patient, capturing data using a cone-shaped X-ray beam. These data are used to reconstruct a three-dimensional (3D) image of the following regions of the patient’s anatomy: dental (teeth); oral and maxillofacial region (mouth, jaw, and neck); and ears, nose, and throat (“ENT”).


Dental CBCT systems have been sold in the United States since the early 2000s and are increasingly used by radiologists and dental professionals for various clinical applications including dental implant planning, visualization of abnormal teeth, evaluation of the jaws and face, cleft palate assessment, diagnosis of dental caries (cavities), endodontic (root canal) diagnosis, and diagnosis of dental trauma.

Information for Patients and Parents

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the FDA recommend that clinicians perform dental X-ray examinations, including dental CBCT, only when necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of disease. The clinical benefit of a medically appropriate X-ray imaging exam outweighs the small radiation risk. However, efforts should be made to help minimize this risk.

The FDA also recommends that for all X-ray imaging procedures, including dental CBCT, patients and parents of children should:

  1. Talk with their health care provider.
    • Review the benefits and risks of the procedure before it is performed.
    • Discuss if the imaging exam is necessary and if there are equally useful alternative exams that use no or less ionizing radiation.
    • Ask if the facility uses radiation reduction techniques such as size-based protocols for children.
  2. Keep a record of your family’s medical-imaging histories.
    • The Image Wisely/FDA My Medical Imaging History and Image Gently “My Child’s Medical Imaging Record” cards provide a format for patients and parents to track all imaging exams as part of a discussion with the referring physician when a new exam is recommended.
  3. Resources for patients and parents about the benefits and risks of dental CBCT and other X-ray imaging include:
    • FDA Medical Imaging: Pediatric X-ray Imaging
    • The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging in partnership with the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: “What  is Pediatric Dental Radiography?” and “What Parents Should Know about the Safety of Dental Radiology”.