While you may not need to get x-rays when you visit your primary physician for a checkup, dental x-rays are a key component of a dental checkup. This is partially because there are some dental problems that can only be identified through the use of x-rays. Another reason is because dental x-rays are different than traditional x-rays. To show the differences between the two, here are seven facts about dental x-rays:
They Use Less Radiation
The main reason that dental x-rays can be performed at every dental checkup is because they emit far less radiation than traditional x-rays. In fact digital dental x-rays emit 80% less radiation than traditional x-rays. For more information on the specific amount of radiation emitted by dental x-rays, see the American Dental Association’s page on dental x-rays.
Dentists Use Them for Diagnosis
Dental x-rays are an important diagnostic tool used by dentists to identify dental issues that are not immediately visible during a dental examination. Dental x-rays are used to evaluate things including: cavities (especially between the teeth), the health of the tooth roots and jawbone, and the presence of wisdom teeth. They can also be used to diagnose malocclusion and problems with the temporomandibular joint.
Some Dental X-Rays are Extraoral
Extraoral dental x-rays are taken outside the mouth and shows the entire mouth and surrounding structures in a single image. This is called a panoramic x-ray. Extraoral x-rays are used to identify advanced periodontal disease, impacted wisdom teeth, jaw tumors or cysts, jaw joint disorders, and sinusitis. Additionally, panoramic x-rays are often used to develop treatment plans for dental implants, partial dentures, tooth extractions, and braces.
Some Dental X-Rays are Intraoral
Intraoral dental x-rays are taken inside the mouth. With this type of dental x-ray, the x-ray film is placed inside the mouth. Intraoral x-rays are the most commonly performed type of dental x-rays. There are different types of intraoral x-rays known as: bitewing, periapical, and occlusal x-rays. These x-rays are used to evaluate the health of the teeth, roots, and surrounding bone. They can also be used to detect cavities. While extraoral x-rays encompass the entire mouth, intraoral x-rays tend to focus on a specific area.
There are Specialized X-Rays
Dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans are specialized dental x-rays that show more detail than other types of dental x-rays. Dental CBCT scans rotate entirely around the outside of the head and takes about 150-200 2-D images as it rotates. The final product is a 3-D image that shows the teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways, and bone. Dental CBCT scans are often used for orthodontic planning, placing dental implants, and extraction planning.
They are Fast and Easy
No matter what type of dental x-ray, they are completed quickly. Often times, it only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete a variety of extraoral and intraoral x-rays, as well as a CBCT scan. Additionally, dental x-rays are completely painless.
As you can see, dental x-rays are much different than the traditional x-rays used in the medical field. Besides emitting significantly less radiation, there are also many different types of x-rays that are specific to dental diagnostics alone. For these reasons, dental x-rays are an essential part of dental checkups.
Dr. Dokhanchi earned the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) with clinical honors in 1992. Dr. Dokhanchi attends numerous continuing education courses every year in order to stay current with the latest techniques and technology in the world of dentistry. He considers Ethics, Quality, Safety, and Comfort the pillars of his dental practice and believes that communicating with patients is essential to quality dental care.