What is a dental radiograph?
A radiograph is a small image that helps us see deep inside the bone or tooth to detect potential issues before they hurt or can be seen just by looking in your mouth. It is part of the many preventative services we offer. Dental radiographs can help us diagnoses disease and conditions that are dense enough to appear on a radiograph but cannot diagnose soft tissue problems because they aren’t dense enough to alter the X-rays and appear on a radiograph. X-rays are an outstanding diagnostic tool for the dental office but it is always paired with a visual exam of the area to ensure that we understand the full extent of any dental problem. Not everything will appear on a radiograph and not everything will appear on a visual exam so they are used in tandem to get a full understanding of a situation.
Radiographs show changes in density so they are ideal for looking for destruction of tooth structure (a cavity) or bone (usually some type of bacteria that has eroded the bone away).
Why would I want a Radiograph?
Dental radiographs provide a wealth of information that we would never be able to see otherwise. We have several different types of radiographs and they each serve a unique purpose.
Cavities, small infections, pathology (oral cancer), and a host of other problems cannot be seen with our eyes alone. Dental radiographs are vital to collection all the possible information about your mouth before proceeding with any treatments.
Periapical radiographs show us the entire tooth from the end of the root all the way to the crown, or the biting surface of a tooth. This allows us to look for pathology in and around the root system and relate the entire tooth to the surrounding bone to look for abnormalities. We typically only take these if there is a suspected problem with the internal area of the tooth (the pulp) or if the tooth has experienced trauma.
Panoramic radiographs show the entire dentition and jaw which gives us a birds eye view of all of your teeth. We typically take this every 3-5 years to look for abnormalities in the sinus, jaw, roots of the teeth, or other unique pathology that is hidden in a visual exam.
Bitewings radiographs show is the top ½ of a tooth and are designed to capture cavities or other abnormalities near the biting surface of the tooth, above the gums. These are routinely taken every year so we can track or treat any lesions that may appear to ensure that nothing can progress quickly and suddenly require more treatment.
How does it work?
A dental radiograph uses a small digital plate to gather information about the area and transfers that data to a computer, allowing us to see things that our eyes cannot. Radiation travels from the xray cone through the tissue to be examined and strikes the radiograph plate and that data can be seen instantly on out in-office computers, allowing for quick and accurate diagnosis of whatever might need to be addressed.
Dental x-rays are used in combination with a visual exam to determine that your dental needs are. X-rays by themselves or a visual exam alone cannot uncover all your dental issues. Because of this, we usually recommend x-rays at least once per year, with a visual exam 1-2 times per year so that we can stay on top of things. There are so many things that can only be seen on an x-rays, and likewise things that can only be seen with a visual exam. Doing both is critical to ensuring that dental issues are dealt with quickly and before they become larger and more costly problems.