X-rays take images of your teeth using electromagnetic energy, which allows the dentist to see portions of the jaw and teeth that are not visible to the naked eye. X-rays are taken to show a more complete picture of your oral health or to get a closer look at a specific dental problem such as the root of an infected tooth.
Different types of x-rays take pictures of your mouth using different methods. The most common dental x-rays include:
Dental x-rays are an essential tool in dentistry because they allow us to view oral health problems that can not be spotted visibly during an oral exam, such as gum disease. It also allows us to see potential problems that will arise in the future, such as impacted wisdom teeth.
X-rays can give a dentist the foresight to know what treatment plan to put into motion before active oral health problems such as pain and infection arise.
It is not necessary to get a dental x-ray at every single dental visit for most people. The American Dental Association recommends that healthy adults with no present oral health problems get dental x-rays every 2-3 years.
However, if you are visiting a dentist for the first time and they don’t have access to any of your x-rays, taking an x-ray may be necessary for them to be able to establish a baseline of your oral health condition.
You may also need to get more frequent x-rays if you have oral health problems, a lot of dental work, dry mouth, or a high risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease. In this case, your dentist may recommend that you return for x-rays every year to keep a closer eye on things.
Other situations that warrant dental x-rays include formulating a treatment plan for a specific dental problem such as the damaged pulp of a tooth. If a tooth needs a root canal, the dentist will want to get a close look at what is happening around the gums and inside of the tooth to check for infection and any other problems.
There is no preparation needed for a dental x-ray. They are usually performed at the end of routine dental cleanings and checkups unless the x-ray is part of the treatment plan for a dental restoration or treating a diseased tooth.
It’s a good idea to brush your teeth before your appointment so your mouth is more hygienic. Your dentist may ask you to remove jewelry or removable pieces inside of the mouth like dentures before taking the x-ray so it does not interfere with the image.
The specific method used to take an x-ray of your teeth depends on what the x-ray is for. Intraoral x-rays, meaning x-rays of the inside of your mouth, are the most common because they show signs of cavities, bone health, and the root of your teeth.
You should inform your dentist if you are pregnant before getting a dental x-ray. Though x-rays are considered safe during pregnancy, they will only be taken if necessary and you will be given protective garments to protect your fetus.
Extraoral x-rays are taken from the outside of your mouth and are usually requested to get a closer look at how the wisdom teeth are sitting in the mouth when they are impacted. Intraoral x-rays are taken when you are sitting in the dental chair. Some precautions will be taken to protect you from radiation such as placing a leaded apron over your chest and covering your neck.
A sensor is then placed in your mouth which takes a picture of some or all of your teeth and the picture will be digitally displayed on your dentist’s monitor. Extraoral x-rays are taken when you are standing. You will bite down on an appliance while the machine rotates around your head for 15-20 seconds to take a photo of your teeth in the upper and lower jaw. It is important to try not to move.
Dental x-rays give us so much more information than the naked eye ever could. We can see the inside of a tooth, how teeth are sitting behind the gums, the conditions of your gums and jawbone, as well as the presence of infection or diseases. Book your next preventive dentistry appointment with Dr. Melanie Villalobos and Dr. Margaret Meadows at Coronado Dental Associates or give us a call at (619) 435-0844.