Understanding the Dental X-Rays Your Dentist Uses
Dental x-rays are an important part of your routine checkups. We use dental x-rays to look for problems with your teeth, gums, and jawbone that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and each type of x-ray has its specific purpose. Which ones we use for you depends on the reason for your visit, your oral health concerns, and the procedures we’re considering.
Bitewing x-rays are the most common type of x-ray we use, the one you’re most likely to get at a regular checkup. It’s called a bitewing because you bite down on the sensor to hold it in place. Bite wing x-rays are good for imaging the crowns of your teeth, the part that’s visible. It allows us to see what’s going on inside the tooth in case there is any decay in the tooth surfaces that we can’t see. It also shows all your fillings and whether there’s any decay under them. It may also give us a vague trace of the gum line and should show us the level of your jaw bone. If the jaw bone is not visible on a bitewing x-ray, we know there’s a problem and we’ll need another type of x-ray to figure out how bad the problem is.
Periapical x-rays are x-rays designed to show your entire tooth, from the top of the crown to the tip of the root. It can be set up to show just one tooth or a few adjacent teeth. We use this x-ray if we have concerns about gum disease around some specific teeth or we think there might be bone loss around the base of the tooth. We also use this type of x-ray when we’re assessing the health of a tooth for a root canal.
This type of x-ray is used to track development of teeth in children. It shows an entire arch of teeth and can help us identify how teeth are coming in. They’re named because they look down or up at the arch of teeth from the perspective of teeth in the opposite arch, called the occlusal teeth.
Panoramic x-rays allow us to fully look at all your teeth at once. This can help us look at emerged teeth as well as emerging and impacted teeth. It also includes the sinuses and can sometimes be used to look at the temporomandibular joints to get a basic idea of damage to bony tissue related to TMJ. They are also used to check for oral tumors or determine how large the tumors are.
CT scans are a little different from your usual x-ray. Instead of taking just one image, CT scans take a lot of images at once, then use a computer to assemble them into a single three-dimensional image of your bone structure. CT images are the best tool for assessing TMJ -related bone changes, and they’re an invaluable tool for planning dental implant procedures.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions
If you’re in our office and we’re getting ready to do something that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask about the procedure and why it’s necessary. We’ll always try to explain everything fully, but if we forget in your case, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.