what do dental x-rays show blog post headerWhat Are Dental X-rays?

X-rays (all known as radiographs) use electromagnetic radiation to produce detailed internal images of your teeth and jaws. X-rays are an older technology (they began being used by doctors in 1896) that has been updated and improved upon through the years and are a key component of dental healthcare and are taught in any school of dentistry.

There are two types of dental X-rays: Intraoral (taken inside the mouth) and extraoral (taken outside the mouth). These may be traditional (taken with film) or digital (taken with digital sensors and a computer). Digital X-rays use 80-90% less radiation than traditional dental X-rays.

Why Dental X-rays are Performed

Our dentists, hygienists, and staff use dental X-rays to get a complete and detailed image of your oral health, as it shows us things we can’t see in a routine exam – such as your nerves, sinuses, and teeth roots, as well as dental disease. We make sure that, since we’re dealing with radiation, we utilize only the safest practices for everyone involved in the process. But know that the images that X-rays provide are a priceless part of general dentistry, as well as other types of oral care.

Problems X-Rays Spot

X-ray radiation allows a dentist to detect various oral health concerns, including routine problems such as cavities (sometimes referred to as dental caries) – but also more serious concerns such as tumors – before they worsen.

This is because of the way dental X-rays work. In an X-ray, harder more mineralized tissues, such as enamel and dentin (what we think of as a tooth) block more of the X-ray radiation and thus appear white in the X-ray picture. Conversely, spaces between teeth and tooth pulp appear dark because they are non-mineralized. Problems too, including cavities, infections, and abnormal growths, will also appear darker.

A dentist understands this and knows where lighter and darker spots should be represented in an X-ray picture. So, when a dentist sees a darker spot where a lighter one should be, they know they’re looking at a potential dental health problem.

Dental X-rays Show

What do dental x-rays show? The list is long and reveals why they are a key component of oral health care. Dental radiology may help a dentist spot:

·       Cavities – even the smallest areas of tooth decay, including in individual teeth and cavities between teeth

·       Gum disease

·       Decay beneath existing fillings

·       Bone loss in the jaw

·       Infection – including abscessed teeth (infection at the root of the tooth or between gums and teeth)

·       Root and tooth position – including for unerupted teeth (such as wisdom teeth) or impacted teeth, which may be key before receiving braces

·       Cysts and some types of tumors.

Because of the design of dental X-rays, a dentist uses different styles of X-rays to see different areas of the mouth. All produce radiation, but modern X-rays do so at safe and tolerable levels for patients of all ages.

Intraoral X-rays (inside the mouth)

Bitewings X-rays reveal the top and bottom teeth in one area of your mouth. These dental X-rays help a dentist detect decay between teeth or any problems just below your gum line, as well as how your bite aligns. That is why our dentists perform these very small X-rays in bi-annual exams.

Periapical X-rays reveal the entire tooth, from the crown to the root tip. These X-rays help a dentist detect decay, gum disease, bone loss and any other abnormalities of the tooth or surrounding bone.

Occlusal X-rays reveal concerns in the floor or roof of the mouth. These are key to a dentist diagnosing fractured or impacted teeth or evaluating the roots of the front teeth. Occlusal X-rays can also help identify cysts, abscesses, and jaw fractures – as well as help evaluate developing teeth.

Extraoral X-rays (outside the mouth)

Panoramic X-rays reveal all the structures in the mouth on a single image, including your complete teeth (upper and lower teeth), jaw joints, nerves, sinuses and supporting bone.

Cephalometric X-rays encompass the entire head from the side and show the location of teeth in relation to the jaw.

Cone beam CT scans are 3D dental X-rays of your teeth, jaws, joints, nerves, and sinuses. These X-rays can also detect tumors or facial fractures and are often used before providing dental implants.

Normal Results

A dentist should always share the results of your dental X-rays with you and provide full details of what they discovered. In normal results, you’ll see lots of white structures and very few darker spots. If a bitewing X-ray does not reveal any abnormalities, we will end our X-ray scans there. However, if there are any abnormal results, we may need to take more scans.

Abnormal Results

In dental X-rays, cavities appear as a dark spot in an otherwise white tooth. Since this type of decay starts in the enamel, which is the whitest part of the tooth on an X-ray, it will be obvious on film. Other abnormalities may be revealed by an initial bitewing X-ray. If so, dentists may proceed to a more in-depth exam. The same goes for if you have any complaints about sensations or occurrences in your mouth. If you have a dental problem, you may need to utilize different types of X-rays.

How Often Should Teeth Be X-Rayed?

We don’t take extraoral dental X-rays often (we closely follow all American Dental Association and U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines to ensure the least amount of radiation exposure and the safest experience for all our patients). In fact, we only recommend a full range of X-rays for new patients and then supplemental X-rays every 3-5 years.

We do recommend that you receive bitewing dental x-rays during your biannual visits as part of your regular dental treatment (bitewings utilize the smallest amount of radiation exposure possible). Know that when we do take smaller, intraoral X-rays, it is because we trust the results and know how valuable it is for us to see what’s going on under the surface of your teeth and gums.

Schedule a Checkup

If it has been more than five years since your last dental X-ray, please consider scheduling an appointment with BGW today, because there could be a lot going underneath the surface of even the healthiest looking teeth, and only a caring, experienced dentist will be able to get a complete look at your oral health.

Dental X-rays help us maintain your oral health and the brightest smile possible. Call us at 678-582-8099 to set up an appointment with us in Braselton, Dahlonega, or Gainesville.