5 Reasons to Go Get an X-Ray at Your Dentist’s Office
The main reason why people are encouraged to visit the dentist at least twice a year is that it helps fix and prevent oral health issues. When you schedule your regular visits to the dentist, it may be necessary to get an x-ray. According to WebMD, how often you need to get an x-ray depends on your unique situation. If you’re going to the dentist for a new exam, a dental x-ray is par for the course. Similarly, you might need to get an x-ray more frequently due to an existing issue or your dental and medical history. In any case, it’s important to understand the importance of x-rays in relation to your oral health. Here are the top five reasons for going to the dentist and getting an x-ray done – but first, here’s some background info on dental x-rays.
What Are Dental X-Rays
Dental x-rays are radiographs that your dentist takes to obtain images of the interior of your mouth. These x-rays have become a common tool used by dentists, and there are different types of x-rays that provide images of different parts of your mouth. Generally, dental x-rays can be divided between intraoral and extraoral x-rays. Intraoral x-rays can be divided into bitewing, occlusal, panoramic, and periapical x-rays. Bitewing x-rays show the exposed surface of the teeth. Your dentist will usually take this type of x-ray to determine if the crowns of your teeth match up. Occlusal x-rays show either the upper or lower jaw and are used to check how well your upper and bottom teeth line up.
For panoramic x-rays, the machine rotates to show the entire area of the mouth and can help detect impacted wisdom teeth. On the other hand, periapical x-rays show the tooth as well as deeper layers where the tooth attaches to the root. When it comes to extraoral x-rays, there are also several types, including tomograms, sialograms, dental computed tomography (CT), and cone beam CT. Intraoral x-rays tend to be more common than extraoral x-rays while extraoral x-rays are utilized when your dentist wants to check the jaw and other areas outside the teeth and gums. Each option utilizes a specialized technique, which goes to show how dental technology has advanced.
For instance, a sialogram uses a die that’s injected into the salivary glands, which can then be seen clearly on an x-ray. Your dentist will use their training and knowledge to decide on the best x-ray to take. When going to the dentist for an x-ray, a dental hygienist will explain the procedure in detail, and you’ll be required to hold still during the procedure. The x-ray machine will be positioned alongside your head, where it can record images inside your mouth. The procedure usually only takes a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the number of images needed.
Reasons to Get an X-Ray
Before we look at the top reasons for getting a dental x-ray, you might be wondering if the procedure is safe. The answer is that, yes, x-rays are a safe and approved procedure commonly used in dentistry. Now let’s look at the reasons for getting a dental x-ray.
1. Evaluate Your Dental Health
When going to the dentist for an initial exam, your doctor will need to take x-rays to ensure the exam is comprehensive. Besides taking an x-ray during a regular check-up exam, your dentist will also screen for oral cancer, check for gum disease, and check tooth surfaces for decay. Diagnostic x-rays or radiographs are also necessary because they allow your dentist to detect many other things, including tooth and root positions. Fortunately, the technology behind dental x-rays has improved significantly, allowing dentists to take digital x-rays, which can be stored on a computer. Digital x-rays reduce radiation significantly compared to traditional x-rays.
They can be viewed instantly and enlarged, which helps your dentist to evaluate your oral health more quickly and accurately. Your dentists can’t accurately assess your oral health if they only check what’s visible to the naked eye. When performing a comprehensive exam, your dentist may require a series of full mouth x-rays, depending on the issue or problems you may be experiencing. Even if there are no evident problems, your dentist will still want to develop a baseline assessment of your health. This assessment will be used to compare with other future developments to see if your oral health is deteriorating, improving, or hasn’t changed.
2. Identify Hidden Cavities
One of the most common reasons for going to the dentist is to get your teeth checked for cavities. However, some cavities are well-hidden and can be easily missed if your dentist performs a visual inspection alone. The problem with hidden cavities is that they can get worse over time and complicate your dental treatment. When you have tooth decay or damage to the tooth, this creates holes in the outer coating of the tooth (the enamel) which progressively affects the inner layers of the tooth. This is why cavities end up being painful. Various signs and symptoms can pinpoint whether cavities are hidden deeply in the pits and fissures of the teeth.
You may be experiencing sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures or pain when eating something hot, cold, or sweet. In addition, there may be pain when you bite down, toothache, or discoloration and staining on the surface of the teeth. If your dentist spots visible holes or pits in your teeth, they may want to take an x-ray to get more detail. Therefore, dental x-rays are a great technology used to treat cavities. Your dentist can also use laser technology accompanied by radiographs to detect hidden cavities. It works because while you may not be able to see it, your teeth are actually made from a semi-translucent material, which means they allow light to pass through.
Both the outer layer/enamel and dentin allow light to pass through. Cavities first develop on the enamel and make their way to the dentin, eventually causing root decay. When low-powered laser light is directed at your teeth, the parts with hidden cavities illuminate differently. Once your dentist identifies an area that might cause concern, they can then decide on a treatment plan.
3. Detect Other Oral Issues
Besides hidden cavities, x-rays can be used to discover a host of other issues. When going to the dentist for an exam, your dentist may prescribe x-rays for your mouth because this is an important diagnostic tool that helps pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. Your dentist can only develop a treatment plan for your oral health once they know what’s beneath the surface. As mentioned, x-rays use a small amount of radiation directed to different areas of your mouth, which is why they’re also referred to as radiographs. Because the radiation can’t pass completely through your teeth and bones, these will show up as lighter sections on the resulting image.
Thus, your dentist can examine your teeth, gums, and jaw to see if they’re healthy and correctly positioned. Some of the oral health problems that can be detected by x-rays include decay, wisdom tooth position, decreased bone density, gum disease, infection, cysts, and abscesses. If you have decay or cavities, this often shows as a darker patch against the lighter-colored tooth. You may get an and-ray to check your wisdom tooth development. If your wisdom teeth are impacted, coming out at the wrong angle, or affecting the adjacent teeth, this allows your dentist to make an informed decision about whether to extract them.
X-rays can also be used to check if you have bone loss issues caused by missing teeth or root infections. As with tooth decay, bone loss will show up as a darker area around your tooth, and if your dentist sees this, they can prescribe the correct treatment, usually a bone graft. Gum disease is a common problem and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 14% of the global adult population has severe periodontal diseases. X-rays can be used to detect advanced periodontitis, allowing you to get the necessary treatment. They can also detect cysts and abscesses which are not visible during a manual exam. Hence, x-rays are crucial in pathology because tumors and cysts can be identified quickly before the symptoms worsen. When oral cancer and other issues are diagnosed early, this increases your chances for a successful recovery or treatment. Whatever the issue may be, once detected, your dentist can then prescribe an effective treatment plan.
4. Get Tailored Treatment
Many dental procedures have to be tailored to your teeth and mouth. For instance, if you’re planning to get dental implant surgery, your orthodontist will have to ensure there are no problems that can interfere with the treatment. For starters, before they can recommend this procedure, your orthodontist needs to determine if you have enough bone in your jaw for the implant to fuse successfully. An x-ray shows bone density and shows if a bone graft will be needed to securely place the implant. The images will also show if there’s enough space between adjacent teeth so that the correctly-sized implant can be placed.
The x-rays taken of your mouth are also essential in planning any surgery of the upper and lower jaw. Your surgeon needs as much information as possible, such as the placement of roots, nerves, and nasal cavities. These structures are not evident to the naked eye, but they have to be factored into the equation to prevent complications during surgery. Overall, x-rays are a vital tool used by orthodontists to devise a tailored treatment plan that’s backed by accurate information. It’s common for x-rays to be taken during and after orthodontic treatment.
Toward the end of the treatment, your orthodontist may use the images to see whether the treatment is working and if there are adjustments that need to be made. For instance, if your teeth are still not correctly positioned, the x-rays can prove that a bracket alignment is necessary. After treatment, your orthodontist will also need images to evaluate the results and come up with a strategy to retain the improvements, so you have a lasting and beautiful smile.
5. Save money and Time
While it’s true that dental x-rays come with an extra cost, they can help you save money and time in the long run. When you have dental issues, your dentist should be able to spot these issues in time, provided you’re going to the dentist regularly. However, no matter how trained or qualified your dentist is, they can’t see some areas of your mouth, like under your gums, inside your teeth, or between the teeth. Dental x-rays help your dentist see better than the naked eye, thus revealing hidden issues which must be treated before they get worse.
By getting treatment early, you can save a lot of money and time in the process. Dental problems are easier to treat and take less time to solve if they’re minor. For instance, a small hidden cavity between your teeth requires only a simple filling, while a painful and larger one might require a root canal or extraction. Also, when going to the dentist on a schedule, x-rays are a planned expense, and the cost can be alleviated by having health insurance.
Overall, when going to the dentist, an X-ray can be helpful in several instances. Dental x-rays reveal hidden areas of decay, especially between the teeth. They can also be used to identify decay after you have had a tooth filling. Additionally, x-rays show bone loss, abscesses, and signs of infection. Your dentist can also use the information from your x-rays to create a customized treatment plan, depending on the type of procedure. According to WebMD, dental x-rays are also helpful for children. They detect tooth decay, show if all the child’s teeth are growing normally, and identify impacted wisdom teeth and other developmental abnormalities. As you can see, there are so many positives that come from going to the dentist for an x-ray. If you haven’t had a dental x-ray taken in a while, now is the best time to get started. Call Railroad Dental Associates today to learn more.