As Dentists, we use X-rays as a diagnostic tool to help the us find problems in the mouth before they become too painful or costly for our patients. We want to give the best treatment and care and sometimes we are unable to do this on a visual examination alone.
Tooth decay can start in between the teeth, under existing fillings and on crown and bridge work, all of which can only be seen on X-rays. Additionally, X-rays will identify bone loss around the teeth, preventing infections that can occur at the root of the tooth. With this information, we can plan the correct treatment for our patients.
X-rays are often required when a patient comes to the practice in pain and cannot identify where it is coming from. When patients aren’t sure what is causing the pain, with the help of an X-Ray, we can identify whether the cause is coming from the upper or lower jaw. This type of unidentified pain is called ‘Referred Pain’ and is quite common but easily treatable once the cause is identified.
Similarly, when our Wisdom Teeth are erupting X-rays are useful to see where their position is and if there is enough room for them to emerge. With this information, future problems can be dealt with before they cause pain and discomfort. Likewise with children’s teeth, X-rays are sometimes taken to determine whether there is enough room for their secondary teeth, when approximately the teeth will appear, or if they will have any adult teeth missing.
There are different types of X-rays. Some are taken inside the mouth (Intraoral) and others outside (Extraoral). At Black Swan, we take routine X-rays every 18mths to 2 years, these are known as Bitewings. These show how the back teeth meet each other and if decay is present.
Periapical (PA) X-rays show the whole tooth from what is visible inside the mouth to the root under the gum and bone. These are used for diagnosing gum problems and root infections.
Occlusal X-rays are sometimes used to show the development of both sets of children’s teeth. These types of X-rays are all taken inside the mouth.
Panoramic X-rays are taken outside of the mouth and show the teeth, nasal area, jaw joints and sinuses. Panaromic X-Rays are used in implant cases, impacted teeth, diagnosing cysts, tumours and jaw disorders. Sometimes they are used if a patient has a very severe gag reflex instead of the Intraoral X-rays.
Cephalometric (lateral) are taken outside the mouth around the skull and are used for planning orthodontic treatment.
Is it safe?
Very little radiation is emitted during dental X-rays, in fact, there is more radiation from natural sources such as minerals in the soil that we are exposed to naturally rather than from an X-ray. We use a digital system which emits a very low dose of radiation and the X-ray beam is focused only on the area that requires investigation. Even then, we will only take X-rays if we think it necessary. If a patient is pregnant, then we do not take X-rays.
When we take your X-ray, as a cautionary practice, our dental staff always leave the room whilst the X-ray is in progress. As they are exposed to X-ray radiation on a regular basis, we have them leave the room to reduce the risk to them. The room that the equipment is based in is lead lined and the equipment is regularly checked and serviced by qualified technicians.