Standard dental exams include a head and neck exam and an intra oral exam of your teeth, gums, jaw bone and soft tissue. Routine dental exams are critical for preventive care and early diagnosis of disease. In addition to a cleaning, a complete dental exam requires x-rays to diagnose cavities, infections, gum disease, and bone pathology.
A dental exam generally includes:
• Review your medical history and prescribed medications you take that may affect your oral health (gum inflammation, dry mouth, cavities).
• Evaluate your oral hygiene (demonstrate the correct brushing and flossing technique).
• Remove tartar, plaque and stains on your teeth.
• Evaluate your bone level if you want to replace missing teeth with implants
• Check your jaw bone and jaw joint
• Check your teeth for cavities, parafunctional habits, infection and gum disease
• Dental X-rays specific for your mouth and teeth
What are dental X-rays?
X-rays, called radiographs, are very low levels of radiation used to generate images of your teeth and bone. They are essential for a complete exam to help your dentist diagnose early caries, gum disease or infections and to provide you with a treatment plan. Without dental X-rays, chronic asymptomatic conditions can be left undetected and entreated for several months or years. Dental x-rays may appear complex but are a vital tool to assess your oral health.
Why do we take dental X-rays?
Dental X-rays should be taken yearly. They can be taken more frequently if you present with pain, discomfort, swelling or an abscess.
Several elements influence the type of dental X-rays taken and how frequently:
• Your age
• Your dental history (previous crowns, root canal treatment, implant and fillings)
• Signs of dental infection
• Signs of cavities and gum disease
For example, kids may need x-rays more frequently as their jaw grows and their baby teeth fall. Dentists need to take x-rays to confirm the presence of all their adult teeth and the normal erruption of these teeth.
What are the dangers of dental X-rays?
With the technological evolution, today's digital x-rays have very low radiation exposure which makes them extremely safe for children and adults. Did you know that digital x-rays have less radiation than spending a day in sun or even a five hour plane ride?
In addition to digital x-rays having low radiation, your dentist will be using a lead apron to cover your neck (thyroid), chest, abdomen, and pelvic area to shield your vital organs from radiation.
Are x-rays safe during pregnancy? Pregnant women or women who may be pregnant should avoid x-rays. However, if you are pregnant and are experiencing dental pain, swelling or infection, your dentist may suggest to take a localized x-ray of the area to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. A single x-ray would be safe in this case.
What are the types of x-rays my dentist want to take?
Different kinds of dental X-rays are used for different imaging:
•Bitewing. Most commonly taken to see the crowns of the upper and lower back molars and premolars. These x-rays help your dentist diagnose possible cavities and bone loss between your teeth.
•Periapical. Most commonly taken to visualize the entire length of each tooth, from the crown to the root. It helps diagnose the bone level between your teeth, gum disease, apical infections and unsual bone pathology.
•Occlusal. Taken in kids when there dentition is changing to visualize the presence and eruption of the anterior adult teeth in the bone.
•Panoramic. It gives an image of your entire mouth including your jaw joint. It is recommended to take every five years as preventative tool to make sure that your jaw bone is health and there are no abnormal formations such as cysts or tumours. It is commonly taken at age 9 to confirm the presence of all adult teeth in the bone of your growing child. It is also the most common tool used to assess wisdom teeth and their need to be extracted. Although it may feel like a lot of radiation exposure, it actually utilizes less radiation than bitewings and perioApical x-rays.
•Cone beam modernized tomography (CBCT). Only taken in cases where we need a 3D image of your teeth and the associated anatomical structures. Most commonly used today for implant placement and root canal treatment, this unique tool allows the dentist to have an extremely accurate and precise image of the working area.
X-rays are not normally required at each dental visit. The types and number of x-rays taken should be tailored to your needs as well as your dental history. If you are concerned with radiation, speak with your dentist. But keep in mind that with today's digital x-rays, the radiation exposure is drastically lower than 10 years ago.
What are x-rays used for?
Dental x-ray are an essential tool for a dentist to keep your mouth and teeth healthy.
They are used to:
• Diagnose cavities between your teeth that may go undiagnosed during a clinical exam
• Diagnose cavities under existing fillings or crowns
• Diagnose generalized or localized periodontal (gum) disease
• Diagnose chronic or acute infections at the tip of the tooth root
• Used as a guide for placement of dental implants