Why Your Dentist Takes X-Rays and Why They Are Important

If you’ve ever been to the dentist, there is a good possibility you’ve had an x-ray taken of the inside of your mouth. X-rays are an essential part of the dental field, as they can help oral healthcare professionals examine hard-to-see areas of the mouth. These x-ray images of your mouth can be used to diagnose periodontal disease or discover cavities and other oral health problems.

When talking about x-rays, the conversation can often shift towards the risk of radiation and how often it is considered safe to get an x-ray. While it is true that x-rays expose the body to radiation, in most cases it does not exceed a dosage similar to the exposure you would encounter in the sun on an average day. The amount of x-rays necessary will be determined by your unique oral needs. Adult patients who exhibit no signs of periodontal disease or tooth decay should have an x-ray every 2 to 3 years, according to the experts at WebMD.

Why Are X-Rays Important?

Some oral afflictions, such as cavities or deep-rooted plaque can be hard to see with manual dental tools. Oftentimes, decay can be obstructed because it is lodged within the tooth or in gum line between two teeth. Additionally, early signs of periodontitis can be spotted with x-rays, and dentists can use your x-rays over the years to monitor the growth of new teeth or to discover appropriate placement for dental implants. More inclusive x-rays can help to discover the presence of cysts, abscess, and other infections. Dentists also take x-rays prior to undergoing oral surgery to help give them a better understanding of your bone structure and jaw placement.

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xrays inforgraphic
Infographic by dentabout.com

What Types of X-Rays Are Available

There is a number of various x-ray methods available that help dentists focus on both the entire mouth and particular areas of the mouth as necessary. Additionally, 3D digital x-ray services are available in a number of dental offices. Here is an overview of some of the most common types of x-rays that are taken in dental offices:

  • Bitewing: This procedure involves biting down on a plastic apparatus and takes an image of the upper and lower posterior teeth. You may remember it from your teenage years as it is commonly used to see the development of wisdom teeth. It can also be used to spot decay in these areas.
  • Periapical: This x-ray only focuses on one or two teeth at a time. The image provides the dentist with an in-depth look at the entire tooth from crown to root. These are used to find problems surrounding a particular tooth, like cysts or drastic bone changes.
  • Panoramic: This is most likely the type of x-ray that will be taken before undergoing any type of oral surgery. This x-ray shows all the teeth on one single page. It can be used as a map of your mouth and is often used to determine implant placement or orthodontic procedures.
  • Occlusal: This procedure is mostly used to follow tooth growth in children. This x-ray takes an image of the floor of the mouth in order to examine the bite of the jaw.

Most of these procedures are intraoral, which means the x-ray film is placed within the mouth. Extraoral x-rays take an image with the film on the exterior of the mouth, and can be used to offer “big picture” x-rays.

Overtime, exceptional technological advances within radiology have been made to help dentists devise a clear and detailed image of your jawbone and gums. Cone-beam technology is a form of digital 3D x-ray scanning and involves a cone-shaped device that circles your head to take a digital image of your bone structure. Dentists can use this 3D image to digitally look into your mouth to help treat or prevent gum disease.

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The X-Ray Process

The frequency of your x-rays is to be determined by your dental health professional, and should be based on your immediate dental needs. Patients with extensive periodontal issues are going to need x-rays more often than those with little to no oral health problems. There are restrictions and guidelines to the amount of radiation a patient can receive in a given time. During your dental appointments, discuss any questions or medical concerns with your dentist. If you are pregnant or there is a chance you may be pregnant, discuss it with your provider.

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Getting x-rays is a painless and often quick procedure. Whenever necessary, your body and neck will be covered with a lead apron to protect your torso and thyroid from exposure to the radiation. A small plastic device that holds the x-ray film will be inserted into your mouth and you will be asked to hold it into place while the procedure takes place. Once the x-ray is ready, the procedure is over.

During a digital 3D x-ray, the plastic device and x-ray film is not necessary, as the images are digitally recorded and available on the dental office’s computer immediately. Dr. Acosta recommends having regular x-rays taken when required in order to ensure no unforeseen oral health problems arise.

What Should I Do Next?

Are you are experiencing oral discomfort or simply want to arrange for a regular check-up? If so, contact Acosta Dental Arts, PA to schedule your free smile consultation today! Our dental team offers a wide variety of oral care services to help you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile.