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The Importance of Dental X-Rays

June 4, 2021

It is typical during a regular dental check up and cleaning to have x-rays done. X-rays are used to diagnose decay, fractured teeth, infected teeth, cysts in the bone, resorption of teeth, and an array of bone and tooth anomalies and diseases.

There are several different types of x-rays that may be taken depending on how long it has been since your last visit, if you have been experiencing any pain since your last visit, your age, or if you are a new patient.

The three types of x-rays typically ordered by the doctor at Port City are a full mouth series, panoramic, and bite wings.

A full mouth series is taken for new patients or once every 3-5 years and offers an accurate depiction and potential diagnosis for each tooth in your mouth. They include pictures of the entire tooth - the root included. This allows the dentist to see what’s going on underneath the gumline.

Full mouth series are beneficial for someone who has had a lot of dental work performed for instance, crowns or root canals and fillings, so the dentist can see under the gums in the bone area around the teeth. Dentists can really only see about 40% of the tooth during a clinical exam, so x-rays are a very important component of the exam since it allows us to look for pathology where we can’t visually see it – under your gums and into your bone.

The second type of x-ray is a panoramic x-ray. These are also taken once every 3-5 years or if you are a new patient. Panoramic x-rays monitor growth and development as well as monitoring TMJ (pain in the temporomandibular joint).

During a panoramic x-ray, the machine rotates around your head – allowing the dentist to see the tooth as a whole; jaw joints, sinus cavities, and wisdom teeth if they are erupting and need to be evaluated for removal.

The third type of x-ray is bitewings, which are little films that are placed inside the mouth. These are done at every other regular appointment, so every 12-18 months.

Bite wing x-rays allow us to see in between the teeth, where they touch, and where you as a patient can’t physically see. They are important for detecting cavities early in the disease process. They also evaluate bone levels so your dentist can properly diagnose gingivitis and periodontal disease. They do not however, provide information regarding the roots of the teeth.

X-rays are a great tool since they allow immediate, enhanced viewing of your oral health. Taking them regularly ensures the health and stability of your teeth long-term by catching anything wrong early on, before it turns into a larger issue.