Digital radiography or Digital X-rays is the latest technology used at Paynless Dental to take dental x-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of x-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged on the computer screen. Digital x-rays reduce radiation by a large percentage compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays.
Dental x-rays are an essential diagnostic tool which provide vital information during a dental exam. We use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden problems and to complete a thorough comprehensive diagnosis. Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected.
Digital X-rays are also good when you want to visit Specialist or other Dentist as they can be emailed and you don’t need to carry films.
What types of problems do X-rays help detect?
X-rays help your dentist diagnose problems in your teeth and jaws.
In adults, X-rays show:
- Decay, especially small areas of decay between teeth.
- Decay beneath existing fillings.
- Bone loss in the jaw.
- Changes in the bone or root canal due to infection.
- Condition and position of teeth to help prepare for tooth implants, braces, dentures or other dental procedures.
- Abscesses (an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth).
- Cysts and some types of tumors.
In children, X-rays determine:
- If decay is developing.
- If there is enough space in the mouth to fit all incoming teeth.
- If wisdom teeth are developing.
- If teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums).
What are the different types of dental X-rays?
There are two main types of dental X-rays: intraoral (the X-ray film is inside the mouth) and extraoral (the X-ray film is outside the mouth).
Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of X-ray. There are several types of intraoral X-rays. Each shows different aspects of teeth.
- Bitewing X-rays show details of the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth. Each bitewing shows a tooth from its crown (the exposed surface) to the level of the supporting bone. Bitewing X-rays detect decay between teeth and changes in the thickness of bone caused by gum disease. Bitewing X-rays can also help determine the proper fit of a crown (a cap that completely encircles a tooth) or other restorations (such as bridges). It can also see any wear or breakdown of dental fillings.
- Periapical X-rays show the whole tooth — from the crown, to beyond the root where the tooth attaches into the jaw. Each periapical X-ray shows all teeth in one portion of either the upper or lower jaw. Periapical X-rays detect any unusual changes in the root and surrounding bone structures.
- Occlusal X-rays track the development and placement of an entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Extraoral X-rays are used to detect dental problems in the jaw and skull. There are several types of extraoral X-rays.
- Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth area — all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws — on a single X-ray. This X-ray detects the position of fully emerged as well as emerging teeth, can see impacted teeth and helps diagnosis tumors.
- Tomograms show a particular layer or “slice” of the mouth and blur out other layers. This X-ray examines structures that are difficult to clearly see because other nearby structures are blocking the view.
- Cephalometric projections show an entire side of the head. This X-ray looks at the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile of the individual. Orthodontists use this X-ray to develop each patient’s specific teeth realignment approach.
- Dental computed tomography (CT) is a type of imaging that looks at interior structures in 3-D (three dimensions). This type of imaging is used to find problems in the bones of the face such as cysts, tumors and fractures.
- Cone beam CT is a type of X-ray that creates 3-D images of dental structures, soft tissue, nerves and bone. It helps guide tooth implant placement and evaluates cysts and tumors in the mouth and face. It also can see problems in the gums, roots of teeth and the jaws. Cone beam CT is similar to regular dental CT in some ways. They both produce accurate and high-quality images. However, the way images are taken is different. The cone beam CT machine rotates around the patient’s head, capturing all data in one single rotation. The traditional CT scan collects “flat slices” as the machine makes several revolutions around the patient’s head. This method also exposes patients to a higher level of radiation. A unique advantage of cone beam CT is that it can be used in a dentist’s office. Dental computed CT equipment is only available in hospitals or imaging centers.
How often should teeth be X-rayed?
How often X-rays need to be taken depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months. Others who don’t have recent dental or gum disease and who have ongoing scheduled visits with their dentist may only need X-rays every couple of years. New patients may have X-rays taken at their first exam. First-visit X-rays are also used to compare with X-rays taken over time to look for problems and unexpected changes.X-rays may need to be taken more often in people at high risk for dental problems. These people include:
- Children: Children generally need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than adults.
- Adults with a lot of restorative work, such as fillings: To look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations.
- People who drink a lot of sugary beverages: To look for tooth decay.
- People with periodontal (gum) disease: To monitor bone loss.
- People who have dry mouth: Whether due to medications (such as antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, antihistamines and others) or health conditions (such as Sjogren’s syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth conditions cause decay.
- Smokers: To monitor bone loss that results from gum disease (smokers are at increased risk of gum disease).
How Safe Are Dental X-Rays?
Digital x-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital x-rays better for the safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental practice. As the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the x-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, we still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking x-rays that are necessary.
A routine examination with four bitewing x-rays exposes you to roughly the same amount of radiation you will experience during one to two hours on an airplane.
IF X-RAYS ARE SAFE, WHY DO RADIOGRAPHERS USUALLY LEAVE THE ROOM?
This is a common concern people receiving any type of x-ray have. If they’re safe, why do the people taking them usually leave the room, or wear even more protective gear?
As we said before, the danger of radiation is like any toxin — dosage over time.
Consider the following. Someone walks into a bar and orders a shot. The bartender pours one shot for the patron, and another for themselves. That single shot of alcohol isn’t enough to make either the patron or the bartender ill or damage their livers.
But now imagine the first patron leaves, and a second enters. Again, they order a shot, and again, the bartender matches them.
The bartender has now had two shots of alcohol, while each patron has only had one.
Repeat this many times, and you can imagine the poor bartender getting very ill very quickly.
It’s the same with x-ray radiography. The amount of radiation in a single session isn’t enough to harm either person. But if the radiographer is exposed to that radiation every single time someone comes in, that will become enough to cause them harm.
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