With the advancements in medicine, dental X-rays have enabled dentists to have an accurate visualization of a patient’s oral health. As the X-ray beams pass through the teeth and their surrounding tissues, dentists can detect problems early on. This, in turn, allows them to provide treatment and help patients get back on their confident smiles.
The amount of radiation used on a patient depends on the organ or tissue being examined by a medical professional. Some people have a misguided notion that radiation from X-rays is a contributing factor to the development of cancer. Conversely, the risk of radiation outweighs the benefits it provides for the patients.
Detecting Problems Through Dental X-Rays
One of the primary purposes of dental X-rays is to detect and check for cavities or decay. In adults, dental X-rays help check for cavities that are hiding in smaller areas of the teeth. Most often than not, oral exams are unable to detect minuscule cavities in between the patient’s teeth. Also, X-rays check for decays that can occur in existing fillings. If left undetected, this problem can lead to severe dental issues.
In children, dental X-rays are useful to identify the space in the mouth for the child’s incoming teeth. Also, this help monitors the development of wisdom teeth and the impact these can cause on the gums and tissues of the mouth. Commonly, cysts and tumours are more likely to affect children. As such, dental X-rays are vital in the early detection of these problems.
Two Main Types of Dental X-Rays
One of the main types of dental X-rays is intraoral X-rays. Essentially, this is the most common type of dental exam being carried out on patients. This type of oral X-ray monitors cavities, gums, tissues, and the overall health of the mouth. Also, this clearly visualizes the development of incoming teeth, especially among kids.
There are three types of dental exams which fall under the intraoral X-rays. Each of these types has a specific purpose in examining the teeth. Let’s define each of these intraoral dental X-rays.
This type of intraoral X-ray shows the full development of the teeth, mouth, and jaw. This X-ray visualizes the full arc placement of the upper jaw or the lower jaw. Essentially, this gives dentists the full picture of the mouth which determines if there is normal occlusion present in it. Simply, occlusal X-rays identify if the patient has normal oral functions.
This X-ray shows the whole teeth – from the crown up to the tooth which is entrenched in the jaw. Each periapical film shows the overall teeth dimension located in the upper and lower jaw. Essentially, this dental X-ray detects issues between the surrounding root structure and the bone structure of the teeth.
This type of X-ray provides a clear picture of both the upper and lower teeth in one section of the mouth. Essentially, bite-wing X-rays allow dentists to detect the early development of gum diseases. Also, this determines the accurate fit of a crown filling or restoration.
Another type of dental X-rays is the extraoral X-rays. As its name suggests, extraoral X-rays give a full picture of the teeth, but these mainly focused on the jaw and the skull of a patient. Unlike intraoral X-rays which focus on detecting cavities and decay in the mouth, extraoral X-rays focus on the external part of the mouth.
Extraoral X-rays closely monitor the jaw and its relation to the teeth, especially those that are impacted or damaged. One of its focuses is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) which connects the jawbone to the skull.
There are five types of extraoral dental X-rays. Each type serves a purpose in detecting every aspect of the teeth and the mouth. Let’s dissect each of these types.
Panoramic Dental X-Ray
Through a single X-ray, panoramic X-rays give a full picture of the teeth in the upper and lower parts of the jaw. This X-ray is helpful in checking for emerging teeth, impacted or damaged teeth, and also for the development of tumours.
This type of extraoral X-ray focuses on a specific slice of the mouth. Commonly, this layer of the mouth is in close proximity with other structures of the mouth. Essentially, tomograms provide a clearer picture of one part of the mouth and examine the underlying problems it might cause to the patient.
Commonly known as CT scanning, this type of extraoral X-ray provides a picture of the bones present in the face and in the jaw. This helps determine the formation of tumours or fractures in the face. Essentially, a CT scan examines dental extractions and implants. This, in turn, allows medical professionals to carry out a smooth dental operation.
Cephalometric X-Ray Projections
This dental X-ray solely focuses on the side of the patient’s head which shows the relation between the jawbone and the teeth. Orthodontists often carry out these X-rays to examine the patient and treat any type of dental problems he or she may experience.
This type of X-ray shows a clear picture of the salivary glands. Here, the patient is injected with a dye called the radiopaque contrast agent which allows the X-ray to detect even the soft tissues present in the salivary glands.
Scheduling Your Dental X-Rays
As a child’s teeth are emerging, they need more dental X-rays compared to adults. Also, their teeth are smaller and their jaws are still developing. Essentially, dental X-rays monitor tooth decay or cavities early on.
If there is a medical history of severe dental problems or teeth restorations, adults undergo dental X-rays. This is done every six to 12 months just to make sure that teeth decay is treated well.
Understanding the Exposure of Teeth to Radiation
The amount of radiation used in a patient depends on the organ being examined. As such, the risk of damaging your body’s tissues to radiation is low. Dentists use an extremely small amount of radiation in examining a patient’s teeth.
Currently, advancements in dental care have paved the way for safer dental treatment. Essentially, if you have a nagging question at the back of your mind about X-ray radiation, it is a wise decision to talk it out with your dental care provider.