Dental X-Rays and Intraoral Cameras
Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental X-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation by 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.
Dental X-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected.
Dental x-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental x-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, but they are also faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
How often should dental x-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.
A full mouth series of dental X-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
What is a panoramic x-ray?
Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound photographs of the face and teeth. They offer a view that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. X-rays in general, expose hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth, reveal preliminary signs of cavities, and also show fractures and bone loss.
Panoramic X-rays are extraoral and simple to perform. Usually, dental X-rays involve the film being placed inside the mouth, but panoramic film is hidden inside a mechanism that rotates around the outside of the head.
Unlike bitewing X-rays that need to be taken every few years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis. A panoramic X-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas, and mandibular nerve. Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.
Panoramic X-rays are extremely versatile in dentistry, and are used to:
Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
Evaluate the progression of TMJ.
Expose cysts and abnormalities.
Expose impacted teeth.
Expose jawbone fractures.
Plan treatment (full and partial dentures, braces, and implants).
Reveal gum disease and cavities.
How are panoramic X-rays taken?
The panoramic X-ray provides the dentist with an ear-to-ear two-dimensional view of both the upper and lower jaw. The most common uses for panoramic X-rays are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the mandibular nerve (the nerve extending toward the lower lip).
The Panorex equipment consists of a rotating arm that holds the X-ray generator, and a moving film attachment that holds the pictures. The head is positioned between these two devices. The X-ray generator moves around the head taking pictures as orthogonally as possible. The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear, and useful the X-rays will be to the dentist. The pictures are magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the minutest detail will be noted.
Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment. They are safer than other types of X-rays because less radiation enters the body.
What is an intraoral camera?
Intraoral cameras are changing the face of routine dental appointments. The intraoral camera gives the patient a unique view of each tooth - enabling them to understand diagnoses and make informed treatment decisions.
The intraoral camera is connected to a computing unit at the side of the dental chair. A pen-sized wand is inserted into the mouth, and a movie of the inner mouth is created. This movie can be magnified more than 30x to allow every aspect of the teeth to be viewed in full color. The intraoral camera is an incredibly valuable tool, which brings dentistry to life.
How can the intraoral camera help?
Utilizing intraoral cameras is a completely comfortable process for patients, and provides an honest assessment of the teeth. Here are some of an intraoral camera’s main uses:
- Dental education – Education and preventive care are highly important in dentistry. The intraoral camera can expose areas where home hygiene may be deficient. Any problems can then be resolved before complicated treatments are required.
- Exposing hidden problems – Conditions like gum disease and oral cancer may display easy-to-miss symptoms in their earliest stages. The intraoral camera can more clearly highlight these issues to the dentist and the patient.
- Treatment planning – No matter how well a dentist might describe a condition, it is easier to understand the issue if it can be seen. Seeing tooth decay and problem teeth helps patients understand why certain treatments are recommended for maximum health benefit and aesthetics.
- Assessing progress – Some treatments impact the teeth slowly. The intraoral camera allows treatment to be modified along the way, if necessary, to ensure the desired results are achieved.
- Eliminating uncertainty – One of the most common patient fears is that a dentist is performing unnecessary treatments. The intraoral camera highlights problem areas so that individuals are less likely to refuse necessary treatment.
- Referrals to specialists – On occasion, a patient may need to be referred to a specialist for complex treatment. If this specialist is able to view clear images of the teeth in advance, consultation times and costs can be reduced.
How will the intraoral camera be used?
The intraoral camera is the size and shape of a pen. It is covered with a disposable sheath, to ensure that no germs are transmitted from patient to patient. The slim wand is inserted into the mouth and rotated until clear pictures of every tooth can be recorded. The images are transmitted onto a television screen in movie format. The movie can be paused, and images of individual teeth can be magnified to allow the dentist to explain and explore any noticeable problems. One of the biggest advantages of the intraoral camera is it does not expose patients to radiation. The intraoral camera is one of the most useful and versatile diagnostic tools available.
If you have any questions or concerns about the intraoral camera, please contact our practice.