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How Dentists Evaluate Mouth Health Using X-Rays

By October 2, 2019Dental Procedures
different types of dental xrays

Dental X-Rays 101

X-rays are essential to evaluate mouth health.  They show decay and positions of nerves, measure bone density, show the inside structure and rotation of teeth roots, among other things.

dental Xray Chart

According to the American Dental Association (ADA),

“radiation exposure associated with dentistry represents a minor contribution to the total exposure from all sources, including natural and man-made.”

There are a number of x-rays that dentists use as tools for evaluation. They are categorized into two types of x-rays: intraoral and extraoral. Examples of extraoral x-rays used by the dentist are panoramic x-rays and cephalometric projections.
Furthermore, there are two types of intraoral x-rays taken at the dentist, periapical and bite-wing x-rays.

Intraoral X-Rays

Intraoral x-rays are the most common type of dental x-ray; they allow location of decay, checking the health of the tooth’s root and the bone supporting it. This type of x-ray is a method for evaluation of developing teeth, and monitoring of general health of teeth and jawbone.
The two intraoral X-rays (bite-wing and periapical) show different features of your teeth.

Figure 1: Bite-Wing X-Ray

bite wing xray

Bite-wing x-rays display details of the upper and lower teeth in a single area. This x-ray shows a tooth from its crown (top of tooth) to the supporting bone. They are used to locate cavities, decay between teeth, and changes in bone density caused by gum disease. They help in determining the proper fit of a crown or fillings.

Periapical x-rays (below) show the entire tooth, from the crown (top of tooth) to below the end of the root, where the tooth is anchored into the jaw. Each periapical x-ray shows the dimensions of each tooth, including all of the teeth in one image. Periapical x-rays are used to detect any abnormalities of the root and surrounding bone structures. (Figure 2)

Extraoral X-Rays

Extraoral x-rays focus on the jaw and skull.  They display less detail when compared to intraoral x-rays. Therefore, they are not used for detecting decay or discovering problems with teeth.  

Extraoral x-rays look for interdependence between teeth: they are used to follow the growth of a patient’s jaw and its development in relation to the other teeth.  Therefore, they can be used to identify potential problems between the teeth and the jaw’s temporomandibular joint. 

There are several common extraoral x-rays that your dentist may take, such as panoramic x-rays and cephalometric projections.

Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth area; all the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws are located on a single x-ray. This type of x-ray is useful for detecting the position of fully emerged teeth, as well as for locating teeth that are yet to emerge from the gumline. They aid in the diagnosis of tumors, and identify impacted teeth.

Figure 3:  A Panoramic X-Ray

Cephalometric projections show the entire side of the head. This type of X-ray is useful for examining the teeth in relation to the jaw and profile of the individual. Orthodontists use this type of X-ray to develop their treatment plans.

Figure 4:  Cephalometric Projection taken for Invisalign

Cone Beam Computed Topographer (C.B.C.T.) is used to evaluate bone for the placement of dental implants and difficult extractions. This helps the dentist avoid possible surgical complications before and after.

Figure 5:  C.B.C.T. IMAGE

“I will never place an implant before taking a 3D C.B.C.T. image.  I need to know where the nerves are, the characteristics of the bone, the position and orientation of surrounding teeth, etc. I can get all of that from just one scan.” – Dr. Roy Oyangen 

Advanced Aesthetics Dentistry implements cutting edge technologies backed by 25 years of dental excellence. Dr. Oyangen values putting the best technology to work helping people, meaning a superior quality of care and service for his patients. Contact us today to learn more about how our expert dental team can help you stay healthy and restore that beautiful smile. 

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