Dental X-rays are often referred to as dental radiographs. These radiographs make use of coordinated radiation pulses to produce images of our teeth and the soft tissues and bones of our mouths and jaws respectively. Dental X-rays are particularly helpful in viewing the various structures of our teeth as well as our jawbones. When dentists use dental X-rays they can immediately detect bone loss, periodontal disease, gum loss, malignant tumors, cavities and many other abnormalities that concern our oral health. Dental X-rays are also used in children and youngsters to aid in finding permanent teeth that haven’t erupted yet and imaging root structures needed prior to orthodontic work.
Like all other X-rays, dental X-rays make use of the inherent density contrasts in our jaw and mouth. Take for example, teeth, crowns, fillings and dense jawbones all appear as light spots compared to the darker and less dense soft tissues surrounding these areas. Cavities are easily detected on X-rays because cavities are less dense compared to our teeth. The concept of X-ray has been used since the later parts of 1800s and is continually being utilized up to this very day by doctors, dentists and other professionals in the field of health care.
Albeit dental X-rays make use of radiation to obtain light and dark contrasts, the radiation it emits isn’t hazardous to our health. In a standard X-ray procedure a patient is exposed to the same amount of radiation as he would when he is on a five hours long airplane ride. The level of exposure can even go down further through a digital X-ray technique. When a patient has lead collars and shields his exposure is even greatly reduced.
The Three Most Common Types of Dental X-rays
Dental intraoral X-rays come in 3 basic types and each type is different in its own way. If your dentist is after a particular problem in your mouth or in your jaw you will more likely get a full-mouth series of X-rays which includes several versions of periapical and bitewing views which we will explain further in this article.
The bitewing view evenly separates the upper part and the lower part of your jaw. This intraoral view allows your dentist to see any evidence of bone loss in the crown of your teeth as well as the sub-gum areas of your teeth and the presence of cavities. This type if view allows a good closer look at the posterior halves of both the upper jaws and lower jaws.
Other than the bitewing view, dentists also use the periapical view to get a microscopic look at the root structures of patients’ teeth. Through this dental X-ray view dentists are able to get a detailed examination where nerve pain stems from. The periapical view also allows dentists to see impacted teeth right underneath the gums. This type of dental X-ray is used prior to periodontic procedures, root canals and endodontic therapy.
Among the three, the occlusal view is a special kind of X-ray view as it is used to study the bone structures of a patient’s upper and lower jaws. This type of view allows detection of bone loss, salivary duct blockage and tumors.
Other forms of Dental Imaging
Certain cases require other forms of dental X-rays. These X-rays are often prescribed for patients who inflicted facial trauma, malignant tumors and other rare conditions. Examples of such X-rays include cephalogram and panoramic view.
1 Cephalogram – This type of X-ray view can help dentists determine the main cause of malocclusion and it can calculate the relationships and proportions of a patient’s facial bones. This is a very helpful tool that is used prior to fittings for dentures and dental implants.
2 Panoramic view – This type of view combines a full-mouth exam into a single image. It is especially useful to determine and evaluate fractures and any form of abnormalities of a patient’s jawbones.
How does the process work?
Dental X-rays are usually included in a full-service evaluation and teeth cleaning. When you are scheduled for an X-ray procedure on that day you will be escorted in an X-ray room and you will be handed with a lead shield to be placed strategically over your body. You will be asked to bite on a film that allows the X-ray machine to view the insides of your mouth with precision. After the series of images are taken you will be asked to insert a new film. The great thing about X-rays is that there is neither pain nor discomfort felt during the entire procedure.
When is the right time to get Dental X-rays?
Not many of us know that undergoing a dental X-ray is an important aspect of any oral hygiene program. Dentists usually recommend dental X-rays based on your age and your risk of developing tooth decay. If you don’t follow your doctor’s advice any existing problems you may have might get worse enough to progress into a major oral health problem. If you come to think of it, in the end early detection of oral problems can save you from pain, time and money.
As soon as the X-ray procedure is over your dentists will analyze the results. If there are any alarming images that require immediate attention your dentist will call you back for a consultation.