Dental radiographs (x-rays) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
Dental x-rays may reveal:
- Abscesses or cysts
- Bone loss
- Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors
- Decay between the teeth
- Developmental abnormalities
- Poor tooth and root positions
- Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.
Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental x-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern, digital equipment that cuts down the exposure time of each x-ray.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.
A full mouth series of dental x-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bitewing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
Cone Beam 3D Radiography
Dental cone beam radiography is a special type of x-ray machine used in situations where regular dental or facial x-rays are not sufficient. This type of CT scanner uses a special type of technology to generate three dimensional (3D) images of dental structures, soft tissues, nerve paths and bone. Images obtained with cone beam radiography allow for more precise treatment planning.
Dental cone beam radiography is commonly used for treatment planning of orthodontic issues. It is also useful for more complex cases that involve:
- Surgical planning for impacted teeth.
- Diagnosing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
- Accurate placement of dental implants.
- Evaluation of the jaw, sinuses, nerve canals and nasal cavity.
- Detecting, measuring and treating jaw tumors.
- Determining bone structure and tooth orientation.
- Locating the origin of pain or pathology.
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