Dental x-rays, also referred to as radiographs, are images of your teeth that your dentist uses to evaluate your overall oral health. When X-rays are taken, the hard, mineralized tissues of the teeth block some of the radiation. This allows these heavily calcified areas to appear lighter in color. On an X-ray, a dentist can see the enamel or outer covering of the tooth, the underlying dentin layer, and the pulp chamber where nerve tissue resides inside the tooth.
Typically, your dentist may recommend taking X-rays as often as every six months to spot problems in your teeth, gums, and jaws early on. By treating oral problems before they become serious, you can save yourself money and discomfort. But what exactly can be spotted during a routine x-ray exam?
Types of Dental X-Rays
What a dentist can see on a dental X-ray depends on the type of X-ray that is taken. Intraoral X-rays is the most common type of dental X-ray and is broken down into the following sub-types:
- Bitewing. This X-ray technique involves biting on a small tab of special paper or plastic to show the teeth above the gum line, as well as the height of the bone between teeth. Bitewing X-rays are often used to check for cavities between teeth.
- Occlusal. This type of X-ray is performed when the jaw is closed to see how the top and bottom teeth line up. Occlusal dental X-rays can also be used to look for anatomical abnormalities that may be present on the palate or floor of the mouth.
- Panoramic. A panoramic X-ray is a 2D X-ray that shows the entire mouth in one image. This includes both the lower and upper jaws, as well as all surrounding tissues and structures.
- Periapical. With a periapical X-ray, a dentist is able to see two complete teeth from root to crown.
In addition to intraoral X-rays, dentists can also look more closely at your smile using an extraoral X-ray. Unlike an intraoral X-ray, which is taken on the inside of your mouth, an extraoral X-ray is taken on the outside.
While extraoral X-rays do show teeth, their primary goal is to show the skull and jaw. However, they do not provide the same amount of detail as intraoral X-rays, and are therefore not generally used to detect problems with individual teeth, such as cavities. Extraoral X-rays can also be used to monitor growth, identify problems between the jaws and teeth, and look for impacted teeth.
Problems X-Rays Spot
Your dentist may recommend dental X-rays to look for or diagnose problems in your teeth and gums. They are commonly provided to both children and adults to spot various issues and to ensure that the teeth are growing in the mouth properly. In children, dental X-rays can help dentists determine if there is sufficient space in the mouth to fit erupting teeth. A dental X-ray can also help dentists see developing decay, if wisdom teeth are starting to emerge, or if teeth are impacted and unable to push through the gums.
In adults, a wide variety of health problems can be diagnosed using dental X-rays. While most dental practices use X-rays to look for tooth decay, this is not the only thing radiographs can see. Your dentist may also use this technology to look for decay beneath existing fillings, changes in the bone caused by infection, bone loss in the jaw, condition of the teeth prior to tooth implants, abscesses, cysts, and even certain tumors.
Standard X-rays are often suggested during routine checkups at most dental facilities. However, some patients may receive dental X-rays if they contact their dentist complaining of oral pain or discomfort. From there, your dentist will be able to diagnose the problem, even if the issue is not clear by visibly looking in the mouth.
Schedule a Dental Checkup
Radiographs are an important tool to help dentists properly diagnose a patient’s oral health needs. They allow our dentist in Clermont to see the teeth and mouth in more detail than what is possible with the naked eye. With help from this modern technology, we can determine if you have cavities, abnormal growths, and many other oral health conditions including tooth decay. For more information about dental X-rays or to schedule a checkup, contact Hancock Village Dental today!