The new high precision cone-beam CT scanners expose patients to unadvisable amounts of radiation when used by dentists to procure jaw images.

The device is better than conventional X-rays in procuring high resolution three dimensional images of the entire jaw region including cavities, tooth decay and minute aspects in the skull.

It was found that with every usage the patient was exposed to 67 times higher radiation. Although the chances of getting cancer from a single scan is extremely low ( 1 in 10,000 ), the risk of cancer development increases with every doctor's visit.

On the other hand, aggressive marketing strategies are promoting the popularity of these machines. A trade magazine testimonial by manufacturers quotes –“I use my i-CAT for everything.” The Journal of American Dental Association devoted a separate issue focusing on cone-beam technology in its last month's edition. According to The Times, last month manufacturers have spent $290,000 to promote this product.

Also these scanners increase revenue of dentists and orthodontists, one of the chief reasons why they are extremely popular. The time saved by scanning increased an orthodontist's revenue by $150,000.

Extremely lax regulation fails to prevent the usage of these scanners in the place of a lower radiation alternative. “Some states have in effect no inspections of dental X-ray units,” said Dr. G. Donald Frey, professor of radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina. “States tend not to want to regulate the practice of medicine or dentistry.”

A nationwide campaign to decrease radiation exposure in children and teens was organized and conducted by American doctors. Dentists are reluctant to switch to less dangerous options.

Sometimes, even the conventional X-rays can get outdated with slow, D-speed films that expose the patients to greater dosage of radiation. Other experts want further proof on the practical advantages of the cone beam scanner compared to traditional X-rays. They claim that although the scanner can diagnose complications, its popularity is largely due to its high-tech nature. “Kids love to see that 3-D image,” said Dr. Terry Sellke, an orthodontist in Illinois. “They can go into our computer and look at their skull.”