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Why Might a Family Dentist Order Dental X-Rays?
An appointment with a family dentist often begins with dental digital X-rays. No matter how thorough an examination the dentist performs, there could be oral problems not visible to the naked eye. Some dental issues start inside the tooth or at the roots. Radiographs can give the dentist a general idea of the patient's oral health or could help to diagnose a specific problem.
Types of dental Digital X-rays
There are many types of radiographs that a family dentist can perform. The most common are intraoral digital X-rays that are taken from inside the mouth. It is increasingly common for these to be taken digitally.
A bitewing X-ray uses an intraoral technique to look for cavities and decay occurring between the teeth. It may involve biting down on a piece of a special paper, which produces an image of the crowns of the teeth when exposed to radiation. Periapical radiographs visualize one or two entire teeth from the crown to the root.
Sometimes it is helpful for a dentist to visualize all the teeth at the same time. This requires panoramic digital X-rays, which involve the machine rotating all around the patient's head. The result is an image of all the teeth, including the roots. Panoramic radiographs are helpful in diagnosing problems with the jaw or for checking teeth that have not yet erupted, such as wisdom teeth.
Reasons for dental digital X-rays
Sometimes dental radiographs are used to diagnose a particular problem. If a patient comes into the office of the family dentist complaining of specific pain, the dentist can perform digital X-rays to visualize the problem area and check for any decay or disease that may be causing the discomfort.
However, dental radiographs are also taken as part of a routine visit. Most people only see the dentist once or twice a year. During the intervening time, teeth can become decayed. Indications of early tooth decay may not be evident from a dental examination, but digital X-rays may reveal them.
If an adult has a checkup every six months, a dentist may not require radiographs at every visit. It may only be necessary to obtain digital X-rays once a year, particularly if oral health is overall good. However, if there is tooth decay or gum disease present, or a history of these conditions in the past, radiographs may be performed more often on adults.
Children present unique oral health challenges and therefore often need to have dental digital X-rays taken with more frequency. If adult teeth start growing in behind baby teeth, it can cause significant problems. Radiographs can help a dentist identify this problem and determine whether it is necessary to extract the baby teeth to correct it.
Dental digital X-rays are a useful diagnostic tool for the family dentist. However, some people have raised concerns about the level of radiation patients are exposed to. These concerns are mostly exaggerated; dental digital X-rays use very low levels of radiation, and patients are draped with protective garments such as aprons to guard the internal organs against exposure.
Pregnant women need to notify us ahead of time before receiving X-rays. So long as pregnant women are cleared for the X-ray by an OB MD, and we use double lead shields, they can receive dental X-rays. In most cases, we will only recommend a dental X-ray for pregnant women in the case of a dental emergency such as an infection or broken tooth.
We will take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our patients. Otherwise, dental radiographs are safe for children and adults.
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