During a dental exam, your dentist may prescribe X-rays of your mouth. X-rays are an important diagnostic tool that dentists use to determine the cause of your symptoms and can help them develop a treatment plan for your oral health.
X-rays use a small amount of radiation to penetrate your mouth and jaw’s hard and soft tissues. The calcified tissues (teeth and bones) block some of this radiation, causing them to appear lighter than the surrounding tissue in the X-ray image.
These images allow the dentist to see if your teeth, gums, and surrounding bone are healthy and in the correct position.
Types of Dental X-Rays
Dental X-rays are categorized into intraoral and extraoral. Intraoral X-rays use devices placed inside the mouth to take images, while extraoral X-rays use an X-ray machine to take images outside of the mouth.
Within these two groups, several imaging techniques are used to view different areas and structures inside the mouth.
- Bitewing X-rays show a tooth from the crown to the supporting bone
- Periapical X-rays give the dentist a view of the entire tooth, including the crown, root, and a portion of the jaw bone
- Occlusal X-rays offer a broader view, showing all the teeth in either the upper or lower dental arches
- Panoramic X-rays show the widest view, showing all teeth in both the upper and lower dental arches
- Cephalometric projections show the entire head and tooth position in relation to the jaw
Several other dental X-rays are used to detect specific abnormalities such as tumors and salivary gland problems. You may also need a Computed Tomography (CT) scan, a type of X-ray that creates 3D images of your teeth, gums, and jawbone.
What Do Dentists Look for in an X-Ray?
X-rays are used to evaluate teeth and gum health. In children and orthodontic patients, they are used to determine proper growth and development. In adults, X-rays are used to detect oral health problems.
Some of the things dentists look for in X-rays include:
- Developing decay. While some cavities are visible from the outside of the tooth, more severe decay inside the tooth, between teeth, underneath existing dental restorations, and at the roots is only detectable using an X-ray. Decay shows up as a dark patch on the lighter-colored tooth.
- Wisdom tooth development and position. X-rays can show if a wisdom tooth is impacted or erupting at an abnormal angle, affecting the adjacent teeth. They are often taken before tooth extraction.
- Bone density. X-rays can show whether you have sufficient bone dentistry to place dental implants. They can also show whether you have sustained significant bone loss due to missing teeth or severe root infections. Bone loss appears as a shadowy area around your tooth. If the dentist detects poor jawbone density, they may prescribe a bone graft.
- Gum disease. X-rays are often used to detect late-stage periodontitis. If your dentist has examined your mouth and found infection in the gum pockets, they may order X-rays to determine if there is bone loss under the gum line, which could indicate advanced gum disease.
- Infection, cysts, and abscesses. Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and abscesses are often not visible and cannot be detected with a manual exam. Cysts appear round or pear-shaped and glow slightly on an X-ray image. Abscesses often look like round shadows surrounded by a dark halo.
Visit TruBlu Dentistry for a Checkup
Regular checkups and annual dental X-rays can help your dentist detect oral health problems before they become worse, preventing more invasive and expensive treatment at a later date. Call TruBlu Dentistry to schedule your dental exam and hygiene cleaning today.