In the past, having images taken of your teeth was a drawn-out, complicated process because all images were made on film x-rays, which had to be processed using chemicals. If a dentist needed to share findings with someone else, the printed images had to be mailed to the other party, which was very time-consuming. The advent of digital dental radiography (aka the digital x-ray) has revolutionized the practices of dentistry and orthodontics. Rather than using film, digital x-ray machines use an electronic sensor to take the images, which are then stored on a computer, where they can be viewed right away by the dentist and dental hygienist. Although traditional dental x-rays did not expose patients to much radiation to begin with, digital x-rays reduce the radiation levels another 80-90% on top of that.
Because of their ability to provide dentists with information that cannot be spotted with the naked eye, dental x-rays are extremely valuable tools that mean fewer problems go undetected.
Some Problems That Dental X-rays Can Help Diagnose:
• Tooth decay that is lurking between the teeth
• Cysts or abscesses
• Tumors (both cancerous and non-cancerous)
• Underlying issues within a tooth or below the gum line
• Poor tooth and root positions
• Developmental abnormalities
Bottom line: the earlier you can diagnose and treat your dental issues, the better chance you have at saving time, money, unnecessary pain, and even your teeth.
The world in which we live is full of natural radiation, so it is important to understand that radiation does not kill you or even harm you instantaneously. In order to sustain injuries from radiation, one must be exposed repeatedly over a long period of time or be exposed to a massive dose all at once. Dental x-rays do neither of these things. In fact, now that we have digital x-rays, patients are exposed to even less radiation than ever before. Digital x-rays are quick and comfortable, meaning that the patient spends less time at our office, and they are certainly the best method of dental imaging for your health and safety and for that of the environment.
Despite the fact that digital x-rays provide patients with a very low exposure to radiation, our staff here at Empress Walk Dental still endeavor to keep our patients’ exposure as low as possible. We never take x-rays unless they are absolutely necessary, and our patients always protective lead aprons during the x-ray process.
Every patient is different, and so the need for dental x-rays varies as well. Your Empress Walk Dental dentist and dental hygienist will review your medical and dental history and take your dental exam, your age, your risk of disease, and the signs and symptoms you exhibit into account before deciding to take x-rays.
We typically take a full mouth series of x-rays for new patients so that we can have a comprehensive scope of what that new patient’s current oral health situation is. The full mouth series of x-rays only needs to be done every three to five years in most cases.
Nearly all of our patients receive bite-wing x-rays, which are taken of the top teeth and bottom teeth biting together, once or twice per year when they come for their regular checkup appointments. This practice allows our dentists to keep an eye on the patients’ oral health, diagnose any new conditions that have popped up, and treat any issues that need to be corrected. Nowadays, most dental practices are using digital radiography (digital x-rays) rather than traditional film x-rays because they are quicker and more efficient, and they provide far superior images of the gums, teeth, and other oral structures.
Types and Uses of Digital X-rays in Dentistry
There are two main types of digital dental x-rays: intraoral x-rays, which are taken inside the mouth, and extraoral x-rays, which are taken outside the mouth. The type of x-ray that is used most often is the intraoral x-ray because it allows the dentist to see the teeth in the greatest amount of detail so that they can monitor tooth development and bone health as well as look for cavities. Because they are not as detailed, extraoral x-rays are utilized to diagnose issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), impacted teeth, jaw growth, and the interaction between teeth and jaws.
Within the category of intraoral x-rays, various techniques are used, including:
• Bitewing X-rays – these are taken with the patient biting down on film, and they provide views of both the top and bottom teeth in one particular section of the mouth. This method allows the dentist to see each tooth from top to bottom so that they can find decay in between teeth and detect changes in bone density that result from periodontal disease. Bitewing x-rays also aid dentists in determining the fit of restorations or dental crowns and assessing the marginal integrity of tooth fillings.
• Periapical (limited) X-rays – these provide an image of an entire tooth from the crown all the way past the root tips to the jaw bone area. Dentists use these x-rays to examine the root structure of a tooth and any surrounding bone abnormalities. Since they can illustrate when bone loss is present around a tooth, periapical x-rays help dentists treat issues like endodontic lesions/abscesses, advanced gum disease, and periodontitis.
Digital Dental RadiographyBenefits
• Allows the dentist to see concealed areas of decay between teeth or underneath existing fillings as well as abscesses or cysts, bone infections, gum disease, tumors, and developmental abnormalities that are invisible to the naked eye
• Give dentists the ability to diagnose problems earlier, meaning that they can be treated earlier, which saves patients time, money, and discomfort.
• Images can be sent easily and quickly to other dentists, insurance companies, etc.
• Images can be viewed instantaneously on any computer screen, blown up or otherwise guided in order to show contrast and detail
• Uses 50-80% less radiation than film X-rays, making it safer for patients and practitioners
• Digital manipulation features make it easier for dentists to add color, three-dimensionality, sharpness, zoom, flip, etc. to images in order to detect problems and interpret findings
• No need for chemical processing or hazardous materials disposal – the “greener,” more eco-friendly way to X-ray