Dental X-Rays: How They Work & When to Get Them
Dental X-rays are images of your teeth that your dentist uses to evaluate your oral health.
These X-rays use low levels of radiation to capture images of the interior of your teeth and gums.
This can help your dentist to identify problems, like cavities, tooth decay, and impacted teeth.
Dental X-rays may seem complex, but they’re actually very common tools that are just as important as your teeth cleanings. In this post, your friends at Warner Lakes Dental will explain how X-rays work, how safe they are, and when you should expect to have them taken.
What issues can dental X-Rays detect?
The situations are different between adults and children.
For adults, dental X-rays are used to:
- Identify areas of decay that may not be visible to the dentist’s eye, particularly small areas of decay between teeth
- Reveal decay occurring under an existing filling
- Discover abscesses (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth)
- Reveal bone loss resulting from gum disease
- Show changes in the bone or in root canals caused by infection
- Provide information in preparation for implants, braces, dentures, and other dental procedures and appliances
- Reveal other developmental abnormalities, such as cysts and some tumors
In children, dental X-rays are used to:
- Spot decay
- Determine if there is enough space in the mouth and jaw to fit incoming teeth
- Determine if primary teeth are coming out quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to come in properly
- Check for the development of wisdom teeth and determine if they are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums)
Are there different X-ray techniques?
The short answer is “yes” – one major technique focuses between the teeth, the other focuses on the teeth.
The most common type of X-rays dentists take is the bitewing X-ray. Bitewing X-rays require patients to hold or bite down on a piece of plastic with X-ray film in the center. Bitewing X-rays are normally used to search for decay in between teeth – one of the most common areas where decay-causing bacteria can hide from oral hygiene and dental treatment.
Periapical X-rays are the other common dental X-ray. Periapical X-rays provide an image of the entire tooth, including the roots. Periapical X-rays are used to inspect and evaluate a particular tooth’s root structure and bone level, and also can detect cysts and abscesses.
How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?
Exposure to any kind of radiation — including the sun, minerals in the soil, household appliances, and dental X-rays — can be harmful to the body and can lead to the development of cancer in rare cases. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during dental X-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to a number of measures that decrease the risks associated with X-rays. However, even with the advancements in safety, the effects of radiation are cumulative over a lifetime. Every little bit of radiation you receive from all sources counts, which is why Warner Lakes Dental is so careful with our X-rays.
If you are concerned about X-rays, talk to us about how often X-rays are needed and the reasons for which they are being taken. While some people need X-rays taken more frequently, current guidelines recommend that X-rays be given when needed for clinical diagnosis or in a baseline examination.
How dental X-rays are performed
A dental technician may cover you with a heavy lead apron as you sit in the X-ray chair. This apron shields your body from X-rays. The technician can also cover your neck with the collar of the apron (called a thyroid shield) or a separate collar to shield the thyroid gland from radiation.
The dental technician will have you bite down on a small piece of cardboard or plastic. The cardboard or plastic holds the X-ray film. Then, you will be asked to sit still, while a camera is positioned outside your mouth. The dental technician will step away, and take a very brief (a fraction of a second) X-ray. This may be performed several times to get pictures of all your teeth. Some X-ray machines have a camera that circles your head and takes pictures of your teeth while you sit or stand.
Everyone else in the room wears a protective apron, stays behind a protective shield, or actually leaves the room.
The Warner Lakes Dental Experience
Warner Lakes Dental wants your visit to be the quickest and most convenient dental experience possible! From parking to treatment, we try to make the entire process as simple and painless as possible! From routine check-ups and cleans to root canals, extractions, and cosmetic treatments, Warner Lakes Dental is your partner in dental health.
We want you to enjoy the holiday season, and beyond, with a stunning smile and healthy mouth, teeth, and gums!