Taking a Closer Look at Dental X-rays
Do you remember your last experience with dental x-rays? You may think about pieces placed in your mouth followed by beep-beep-boops from a big machine. You may also have memory of your dentist showing off handy black and white pictures of your pearly whites. While the process is rarely a crowd favorite, x-rays reveal details about your teeth that evade the naked eye.
Even though x-rays are useful, we do see hesitation with some patients who have concerns about radiation. We understand that the thought can be unsettling, but we want to put your mind at ease as exposure is extremely minimal and the benefits far outweigh the risks. If you need a visualization, x-ray exposure at your appointment is equivalent to a few hours on a plane or in the sun. The American Dental Association states that it is also safe for expecting mothers to have x-rays taken. Of course, always let your dentist know about your medical history and if you’re pregnant.
Show Me the Blueprints
Dental X-rays show a unique view of your teeth. In fact, your dentist needs them to ensure that your teeth are at their healthiest. Think about the world of construction and the need for blueprints. A builder will refrain from building anything before having the full layout. Completing work without the blueprint is a recipe for mistakes, inaccuracies, and missed details.
A dentist is similar in this way. Before any work is completed, a dentist will need to understand bone placement, a tooth’s position, and any other underlying issue on the roots or otherwise unseen on the surface. Without dental x-rays, dentists could miss a host of issues such as the extent of bone loss, cavities, or be unaware of an infection.
Over the years, we have found that problems can be sneaky. For instance, you may have an infection yet be unaware of it due to a lack of discomfort. Dental x-rays ensure that problems are addressed before they become a real bother. Plus, everyone’s mouth is a little different, so your dentist will need to see your unique mouth. No two teeth are the same!
Types of X-rays
You may have noticed through appointments over the years that dental x-rays differ. We’ve highlighted a few common x-rays that you may see us use in our office.
Full Mouth Series (FMX)
If you are a new patient at a dental office, you’ve likely taken these x-rays. With a full mouth series, you will take 18-20 individual pictures (consisting of bitewings and periapical x-rays). This way, your dentist can look at each section of the mouth and hone in on the details of every tooth. Essentially, the dentist is getting an overview of your mouth. No stone goes unturned with this type of x-ray.
Bitewing X-rays (BW)
Bitewing x-rays reveal images of the upper and lower teeth. These are great for detecting cavities that exist between the teeth. Generally, your dentist will take 4 bitewing films when taking this type of x-ray.
Periapical x-rays will show a close up of a tooth and surrounding teeth. When looking at periapical x-rays, your dentist will be able to evaluate a tooth from the top to the end of the root. In this way, these x-rays can help a dentist see what is happening below the gumline such as identifying abscesses or changes to the bone.
The panoramic x-ray takes a single picture of the entire mouth. Your dentist might use this to see the position of the teeth as well as emerging or impacted teeth. When you were a teen, you likely took a panoramic x-ray to check the position of incoming wisdom teeth.
While we’re skilled at reading x-rays, we’re not so skilled at reading minds. If you’re having any trouble with those pearly whites, give us a call today.