If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you’re likely familiar with dental X-rays. But have you ever wondered why they’re an important aspect of a routine dental check-up, what purpose they serve, and why your dentist recommends them?
At Aten & Garofalo Dentistry, we offer dental X-rays in Ballantyne, NC as part of our dental examination service. For this reason, we created this post to answer some FAQs about dental X-rays and explain all you need to know about this essential modern dentistry diagnostic tool.
What Are Dental X-Rays?
A dental X-ray (also known as a radiograph) is an imaging technique that uses radiation to create detailed internal images of your teeth, jaw, and surrounding tissues. These images allow your dentist to see and examine structures that may not be visible to the naked eye, such as the inside and roots of your teeth, nerves, jawbone, and sinuses. By examining these structures, your dentist can spot or diagnose dental problems that may be invisible during a routine dental examination and provide the treatment you need.
How Do Dental X-Rays Work?
Just like other X-ray procedures, dental radiographs emit electromagnetic energy absorbed by solid objects but pass through less dense tissues, such as your skin. When you undergo a dental X-ray, a minimal amount of electromagnetic radiation passes through your teeth and surrounding tissues and is exposed to a small sensor or film.
As the radiation beam passes through your body, different tissues absorb it at different rates before it reaches the film or digital sensor that picks up the images. For example, soft tissues like your cheeks and gums absorb less radiation and appear darker on the X-ray image. At the same time, dense tissues like your bones and teeth absorb more radiation and appear white. This provides your dentist with an inside view of your mouth structure to assess your oral health.
Dental radiographs may be digital (taken with sensors and viewed on a computer) or traditional (taken with film). Compared to traditional dental X-ray equipment, modern (digital) dental X-ray machines use 80 to 90 percent less radiation and are considered safe for most people.
What Are They Used For?
Your dentist can’t see everything despite shining a bright light into your mouth and using mirrors. However, dental radiographs are a valuable diagnostic tool as they allow dentists to detect the following problems, which are often invisible to the naked eye:
- Dental cavities, especially the little areas of tooth decay between teeth.
- Traumatic injuries like broken or fractured teeth.
- Hidden decay beneath existing dental fillings.
- Teeths’ closeness to the sinuses and nerves.
- The existence and location of impacted or wisdom teeth.
- The presence and location of dental abscesses and other infections.
- Bone loss in the jaw.
- The presence and severity of periodontal diseases.
- Dental development issues such as missing, misaligned, or deformed teeth.
- Cancerous tissues, tumors, and cysts.
Dental X-rays are also used to determine patients’ eligibility for dental procedures like dentures, braces, or dental implants. Your dentist may also use them to track your healing after some treatment procedures like root canal therapy and dental bone grafts.
Types of Dental X Rays
There are two primary categories of dental X-rays, this includes:
- Intraoral X-rays: The sensor or film is positioned inside the mouth.
- Extraoral X-rays: The sensor or film is located outside the mouth.
Intraoral X-rays can be further classified into various types, including:
- Bitewing X-rays: These X-rays provide a detailed view of the upper and lower back teeth and are used to detect decay between teeth.
- Periapical X-rays: These X-rays focus on a single tooth and show the entire tooth, from the crown to the root. Your dentist can use this X-ray to spot bone loss, gum disease, decay, and other irregularities in your teeth and nearby bone.
- Occlusal X-rays: These X-rays focus on the roof and floor of your mouth. They aid in the diagnosis of impacted or fractured teeth and the assessment of the roots of your anterior teeth, and the development of emerging teeth.
Extraoral X-rays can be further classified into various types, including:
- Panoramic X-rays: These X-rays provide a comprehensive view of the entire mouth, including the teeth, jawbone, and sinuses. They are often used to assess the overall health of the teeth and jaw.
- Cephalometric X-ray: These X-rays capture a comprehensive side view of your head, allowing your dentist to assess your teeth’s alignment concerning your jaw. Orthodontists often use them to strategize treatment plans.
- Cone Beam CT Scan: This advanced X-ray technique provides 3D imaging of the teeth, joints, jaw, nerves, and sinuses. It provides detailed information that is useful for planning oral surgery or dental implants.
Dental X-Ray FAQs
1. Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Dental radiographs are generally considered safe, as the amount of radiation exposure from a dental X-ray is relatively low. However, despite being safe, our Ballantyne dentists take X-rays only when necessary for diagnosis and within guidelines recommended by the American Dental Association. Besides using modern technology that gives off much less radiation, we ensure you use lead aprons and thyroid collars to shield your body from unnecessary radiation.
2. What Are the Side Effects of Dental X-Rays?
Dental X-Rays do not cause any adverse side effects in most patients. However, like any medical procedure, there is always a slight risk of side effects or complications.
The most common side effect of dental X-rays is a minor irritation or discomfort in the mouth, which can occur due to the positioning of the X-ray film or sensor. In rare cases, some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the X-ray contrast material, which can cause symptoms such as hives, itching, or difficulty breathing.
3. How Often Should You Get Dental X-Rays?
Most patients should get a dental X-ray twice a year. However, your dentist may recommend more frequent X-rays if you have a history of dental problems or are at a higher risk of developing dental issues.
Children and teenagers may require dental X-rays more frequently. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing, and their risk of tooth decay and other dental problems is higher. Ultimately, the frequency of dental X-rays depends on your individual dental health needs. Discuss with your dentist how often you need X-rays based on your circumstances.
4. Can You Get Dental X-Rays While Pregnant?
It is generally safe to get dental X-rays while pregnant. However, the American College of Radiology recommends postponing non-emergency X-rays until after the first trimester of pregnancy. During this period, your fetus is developing essential organs and is more vulnerable to radiation.
If you need a dental X-ray during pregnancy, your dentist will use special precautions to minimize your radiation exposure. However, it is important to note that the amount of radiation from a dental X-ray is meager and unlikely to cause harm to your developing baby. If you have concerns or questions about dental X-rays during pregnancy, discuss them with your dentist.
Achieve Better Oral Health With Our Dental X-Rays in Ballantyne, NC
At Aten & Garofalo Dentistry, we want to ensure you have optimal oral health. That’s why we offer dental X-rays in Ballantyne, NC to help identify potential oral health issues before they become oral health emergencies. By analyzing your teeth beyond what is visible to the human eye, our Ballantyne dentists, Dr. Deborah Aten and Dr. Anthony Garofalo can provide treatment to keep your smile and oral health in tip-top shape.
Make a conscious effort to protect your smile. Schedule an appointment for a dental examination today, and let us spot your dental issues and provide solutions before they have a chance to spread.