Dental x-rays are an incredibly common occurrence during a dental examination. They are instrumental in picking up on things that just aren’t visible during a regular exam. These little problems can be severe. The slightest bit of hidden decay can quickly turn into an infected root, a spot of gingivitis can become advanced gum disease and a little black mark could be something quite sinister.
However, x-rays can be a little intimidating for patients that aren’t used to them. Getting an x-ray of an arm or leg is a lot different to an x-ray being taken inside your mouth. Fear comes from the unknown, so read through this guide and remove the fear!
Types of Dental X-Rays
There are several dental x-rays, all of which perform different roles. The most common include:
- Bitewing X-Rays: This type is the most common, and most people will have one of these taken during their life. They take their name from the shape of the machine, and these images are useful for showing cavities between teeth. They are perfect for picking up on those little spots of decay or tiny cavities that can quickly create the need for a root canal or other invasive treatments.
- Panoramic X-Rays: These machines are actually quite fun and very sci-fi. You stand in the middle of the device, and it whirs around your head. The images provide a panoramic view of the teeth and bones in your mouth and show any irregularities that could spark further investigation. It can also be used to indicate issues wisdom teeth.
- Periapical X-Rays: This type of x-ray offers a more specific image than bitewing x-rays, although it operates similarly. They are usually used for patients to find infections and abscesses.
- Dental Cone-beam CT (CBCT) Scans: These x-rays provide the most detailed form of dental imaging. The three-dimensional images of roots, jaw and teeth require more radiation than the other types, so they are only used in specific cases.
All of these x-rays come under two broad categories of dental x-ray:
- Intraoral: These x-rays provide information from inside the mouth and are the most common type. They provide information on cavities, developing teeth as well as general information on the health of teeth, jawbones and gums. A bitewing x-ray is an intraoral x-ray.
- Extraoral: This type of x-ray does show teeth, but it is primarily focused on the jaw and skull. A panoramic x-ray is an example of an extraoral process. They don’t provide as much detail as intraoral processes, but they are invaluable in showing impacted teeth, as well as monitoring how jaws are developing in relation to teeth.
What are Digital X-Rays?
Digital x-rays are a newer form of x-ray technology that many dentists are employing. This type of imaging offers many advantages over older technology:
- It uses far less radiation than conventional x-rays, making it safer for patients
- The images are produced almost immediately, so there is no need to wait for the x-ray to develop
- The image is shown on a screen so it can be enhanced and enlarged for greater insight into your dental health and any potential problems
- The images are stored electronically so they can be sent to other dentists or specialists, which is vital in providing you with the best possible care. It can also be sent to a new dentist if you move to a new area or clinic
Should I Be Worried About Radiation?
Absolutely not. The amount of x-ray you will be exposed to during a dental x-ray is tiny, and with modern technology, the amount is always shrinking. In fact, the amount of radiation you will be exposed to during your dental x-ray is far less than what you will experience from natural sources, such as background radiation from walking around outside.
X-rays are only used when necessary, so if your dentist suggests once, it’s because you need it.
So, that’s dental x-rays explained. There’s nothing to be worried about is there? They aren’t scary machines, they are incredibly useful devices that are used to safeguard your oral and overall health.