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Dental X-Rays

What are Dental X-Rays?

Dental x-rays help dentists diagnose issues like tooth decay and infections by revealing what’s under the surface.
X-rays, using low radiation, create radiographs as they’re absorbed differently by various tissues in the mouth.
Teeth show up light on these images, while cavities appear dark, aiding in problem detection.

Reasons for taking X-Rays

Types of Dental X-rays

There are a few different types of dental x-rays, each with different benefits. You may need multiple types of x-rays in order to create a complete assessment of your oral health.
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Bitewing X-rays

These show the upper and lower back teeth in one view. They are used to check for decay between teeth and to show how well the upper and lower teeth line up.

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Periapical X-rays

These focus on two complete teeth from root to crown. They can find problems below the gums, like impacted teeth, abscesses, or cysts.

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Panoramic X-rays

These give a broad view of the entire mouth area, showing all the teeth in both jaws on a single image. They can reveal tumors, cysts, jaw disorders, and impacted teeth.

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Occlusal X-rays

These are larger and show full tooth development and placement. They can find extra teeth, teeth that have not yet broken through the gums, jaw fractures, a cleft in the roof of the mouth, cysts, abscesses, or growths.

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Orthodontic X-rays (Cephalometric Projections)

These show an entire side of the head. They help plan orthodontic treatment by looking at the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile of the individual.

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Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT)

This advanced technology produces 3D images of dental structures, soft tissues, nerve paths, and bone. It's often used for dental implant planning, complex extractions, and evaluating the jaws and face.

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Digital X-rays

These are a more modern method where electronic sensors are used instead of traditional film. The images appear on a computer screen quickly and can be enlarged or enhanced for better viewing.

Dental X-Rays FAQs

X-ray frequency varies per dental office and patient; some need them yearly, others biannually or more often based on conditions. It hinges on your oral health and history. Prone to cavities? Annual x-rays might be needed. Cavity-free for five years? You might wait longer between x-rays.

Patients receive minimal radiation from dental x-rays with protective measures like lead aprons, and only when necessary. Digital x-rays emit low radiation and are safe.
The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends a maximum of 20mSv of radiation annually. The average person is exposed to 3mSv yearly, half of which is background radiation from natural sources like radon.
Many parents are concerned about the impact of dental x-rays on children. Children are more sensitive to radiation. However, the amount of radiation in a dental x-ray is still considered safe for a child. As children’s jaws and teeth are continuously changing, it’s important to keep an eye on their development.
These x-rays have many important functions for young patients. They help dentists to:
  • Make sure the mouth is large enough to accommodate incoming teeth
  • Monitor the development of wisdom teeth
  • Determine whether primary teeth are loosening properly to accommodate new permanent teeth
  • Identify decay and gum disease early

Children’s need for dental x-rays differs individually. X-rays are taken based on medical/dental history and a clinical exam, only if they provide extra information beyond a visual check. Kids usually need x-rays more often than adults due to rapid growth and higher decay risk. High-risk children may need x-rays every six months, while those at low risk need them less often.

X-ray films detect more than cavities. They help assess erupting teeth, bone diseases, injuries, and orthodontic planning. Dentists rely on x-rays for conditions invisible to the naked eye, making early detection and treatment more comfortable and cost-effective.

Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid dental x-rays. Though the radiation is minimal, it’s best to avoid all exposure when possible for the health of the developing fetus. For this reason, always inform your dentist if you’re pregnant.

Dentists and hygienists must probe and measure the gums around the implant as they would around teeth, examine and compare x-rays annually, assess for looseness, evaluate the bite, and inspect all components attached to the implants to ensure proper function.

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