Also known as dental radiographs, dental X-rays use controlled pulses of radiation to create images of the internal structures of the jaw and mouth. Dental X-rays are useful for viewing jawbones and various tooth structures. They can find and image cavities, bone or gum loss, periodontal disease, benign or malignant tumours, and other normal or abnormal structures within the lower portion of the head. In children and adolescents, they are also useful for finding un-erupted permanent teeth and imaging root structures in preparation for orthodontic work.
Like other types of X-rays, dental X-rays take advantage of the natural density contrasts within the mouth and jaw. For instance, denser jawbones, teeth, crowns and fillings show up as light areas within the darker, less-dense soft tissues that surround them. Cavities easily appear on X-rays because they are less dense than the teeth that they affect. Dentists, doctors and other medical professionals have utilized the relatively simple concept of X-ray imaging since the late 1800s.
Although dental X-rays use radiation to achieve light-dark contrasts, they are not dangerous when used occasionally. During a typical X-ray session, a patient receives about as much radiation exposure as he or she would on a five-hour airplane flight. Lead shields and collars further reduce these exposure levels.
When to Get Dental X-Rays
Dental X-rays are a crucial component of a complete program of oral hygiene. Depending upon your age and risk of tooth decay, you should receive dental X-rays according to your dentist’s recommendations. If you don’t adhere to your dentist’s recommendations, you could miss a vital opportunity to detect and treat tooth decay before it becomes problematic. In the long run, early detection will save you time, money and pain.
Common Types of Dental X-Rays
There are three basic types of intraoral X-ray views. Each type is useful in its own way. Unless your dentist is looking for a specific issue in a certain part of your jaw or mouth, you’ll receive a full-mouth X-ray series that includes multiple versions of the first two types of exposures.
Bitewing view: Split evenly between the upper and lower parts of the jaw, bitewing views allow your dentist to detect evidence of cavities and bone loss in the crown and sub-gum portions of your teeth. Bitewing views generally image the rear halves of the upper and lower jaws.
Periapical view: These lower views are used to study the root structures of teeth in detail. They may be able to pinpoint the source of nerve pain and may also be able to detect impacted or superfluous teeth below the surface of the gums. Periapical views are often used as a precursor to periodontic work, endodontic therapy and root canals.
Other Types of Dental Imaging
In certain situations, you may also receive these types of dental X-rays. They’re often administered in patients with facial trauma, malignant masses or other relatively uncommon conditions.
Cephalogram: This extraoral X-ray view can detect the root causes of malocclusion and quantify the proportions and relationships of the facial bones. It can be a useful precursor to fittings for dental implants or dentures.
Panoramic view: This type of view blends the components of a full mouth exam into a single large-scale image. It is particularly useful for detecting and analyzing fractures and abnormalities in the jawbones.
How the Process Works and Why we use Digital
Dental X-rays are usually administered as part of a full-service examination and teeth cleaning. When it’s time for your X-ray session, you’ll be ushered into an X-ray room and given a lead shield to place over your body.
Digital x-rays use up to 70% less radiation to get better results. Digital x-rays mean less discomfort during the x-ray process because of streamlined designs, rather than sharp paper films cutting into your mouth. Digital x-rays also enable us to take an image and know immediately what is going on rather than waiting for the development process. Digital x-rays decrease your time in the chair, because of their immediate results.
Once your X-Ray session is complete, your X-rays will be examined by your dentist. If they show any areas of concern, you may be booked back for treatment, or referred to a specialist depending on the issue.