The newest technology used to take dental x-rays is known as "digital radiography."  This technique uses an electronic sensor, rather than a film, in order to capture and store the digital image onto a computer.  This image can be instantly viewed and adjusted, helping the dentist and dental hygienist identify conditions more quickly and easily. 

During a routine dental examination, dental x-rays are essential, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible to the naked eye.  Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to create a complete plan of treatment to keep you in the best oral health possible.  Without x-rays, problem areas can go undetected, leading to more extensive dental treatment.

What can a x-ray 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!

How safe are Dental X-Rays?

On a day-to-day basis, we are all exposed to natural radiation within the environment.  The radiation dose of digital x-rays is reduced by 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays.  Not only are digital x-rays better for your health and safety, they are faster and more comfortable to take, reducing your time in the dental office.  Also, since 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, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation, only taking those that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.

When should I have dental x-rays taken?

Necessity for dental x-rays is dependent on each patient’s individual dental health needs.  Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based upon the review of your medical history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.

Recommended for new patients is a full mouth series of dental x-rays.  These are usually good for three to five years.  Bitewing x-rays (a view of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at check-up visits and usually recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.

What is a panoramic x-ray?

Panoramic x-rays give a wraparound view of the face and teeth, including bone structure.  They offer a view that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.  These x-rays allow us to screen for wisdom teeth, anatomical structures, periodontal bone loss, and oral pathology.

Unlike bitewing x-rays, which are generally taken annually, Panoramic x-rays are taken on an as-needed basis.  A panoramic x-ray is not used to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve.  Panoramic x-rays are preferable to bitewing x-rays when a patient is having severe pain, or when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.

Panoramic x-rays are extremely versatile in dentistry, and are used to:

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex

  • Evaluate the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJs)

  • Expose cysts and abnormalities

  • Expose impacted teeth

  • Expose jawbone fractures

  • Plan treatment (full and partial dentures, braces and implants)

  • Reveal gum disease and cavities

How is a panoramic x-ray taken?

A rotating arm holds the x-ray generator, as a moving film attachment holds the pictures.  Your head is positioned carefully between these two devices.  The x-ray generator rotates around your head while capturing an image of oral facial structures.  The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear and useful the X-Ray will be to the dentist.


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