Also known as dental radiographs, dental X-rays use controlled pulses of radiation to create images of the internal structures of the jaw and mouth. Dental X-rays are useful for viewing jawbones and various tooth structures. They can find and image cavities, bone or gum loss, periodontal disease, benign or malignant tumors, and other normal or abnormal structures within the lower portion of the head. In children and adolescents, they are also useful for finding un-erupted permanent teeth and imaging root structures in preparation for orthodontic work.
Like other types of X-rays, dental X-rays take advantage of the natural density contrasts within the mouth and jaw. For instance, denser jawbones, teeth, crowns and fillings show up as light areas within the darker, less-dense soft tissues that surround them. Cavities easily appear on X-rays because they are less dense than the teeth that they affect. Dentists, doctors and other medical professionals have utilized the relatively simple concept of X-ray imaging since the late 1800s.
Although dental X-rays use radiation to achieve light-dark contrasts, they are not dangerous when used occasionally. During a typical X-ray session, a patient receives about as much radiation exposure as he or she would on a five-hour airplane flight. Exposure levels are even less with our Digital X-Ray technique. Lead shields and collars further reduce these exposure levels.
Dental X-rays are a crucial component of a complete program of oral hygiene. Depending upon your age and risk of tooth decay, you should receive dental X-rays according to your dentist’s recommendations. If you don’t adhere to your dentists recommendations, you could miss a vital opportunity to detect and treat tooth decay before it becomes problematic. In the long run, early detection will save you time, money and pain.
There are three basic types of “intraoral” X-ray views. Each type is useful in its own way. Unless your dentist is looking for a specific issue in a certain part of your jaw or mouth, you’ll receive a “full mouth” X-ray series that includes multiple versions of the first two types of exposures.
In certain situations, you may also receive these types of dental X-rays. They’re often administered in patients with facial trauma, malignant masses or other relatively uncommon conditions.
Dental X-rays are usually administered as part of a full-service examination and teeth cleaning. When it’s time for your X-ray session, you’ll be ushered into an X-ray room and given a lead shield to place over your body. You’ll bite down on a type of film that permits the X-ray machine to see inside your mouth more clearly. After each image is created, you’ll insert a fresh film. Happily, dental X-rays involve no notable pain or discomfort.
Once your X-ray session is complete, your X-rays will be examined by your dentist. If they show any areas of concern, you may be called back to the office for a special consultation.