Dental radiology involves the use of x-rays to take images of the oral structures. It is important to take these images because we can learn about the state of teeth and the surrounding structures which cannot be seen by just looking in the mouth.
We can reduce many mistakes by using radiographic images. For example, if a patient requires root canal treatment, but a filling was done, the patient’s problem will not be solved, they will continue to be in pain, feel sensitivity or even develop a bone infection.
From the images, we can decide what treatment plan is best suited for you and detect problems early on which helps you save money and fend off an impending discomfort.
Problems that can be detected by dental radiographs
* Impacted teeth
* Fractures of the mandible
* Presence of cysts
* Areas of bone loss
Dental radiographs are also used in dental treatments such as root canal treatment, tooth implants, orthodontic treatment.
Types of dental radiographs
* Bitewing radiographs: these take images of the upper and lower teeth in one area of the mouth and are used to check for cavities on the tooth, between teeth, and under existing fillings.
* Periapical radiographs: These show the whole length of a tooth from the crown to the end of the roots and the surroundings. They are used in tooth removal, infections throughout the tooth and root canal treatment.
* Panoramic radiographs, usually known as OPG: they provide a detailed image of all the teeth in the mouth, the surrounding bone and most structures in the mouth. They are used in a variety of cases including orthodontic treatment, to assess the wisdom teeth, to check for cysts, and fractures involving the mandible.
How safe are dental x-rays?
One of the major concerns among patients is the risk of exposure to radiation energy when taking dental x-rays. Some patients might even refuse to participate in the procedure.
Like any other imaging technique, the patient has to be exposed to some form of radiation energy to produce these radiographic images and for the case of dental imaging, the patient is exposed to x-ray energy.
Since dental radiology plays a key role in the planning and during treatment as we have discussed, we take certain measures to minimize patients’ exposure to the radiation energy. These include:
* The dentist recommends x-rays only when necessary to prevent unnecessary exposure
* Patients are provided with protective vests made of lead to cover the areas which do not need to be exposed to the x-rays. The x-rays cannot penetrate through lead
* The amount of radiation energy one is exposed to is very minimal. In fact, dental radiographs require the least exposure to the radiation energy in order to get the images
* There has been a lot of research and modification of the devices used to take dental radiographic images. The new digital machines do not use as much x-ray energy as traditional ones
How often can you have your x-ray taken?
The number of times you can have your dental x-ray taken is totally dependent on your dental history and your current condition. This will vary from patient to patient; the dentist will advise you on what’s best for you.
Children may require more x-rays than adults because their mouths are still developing, and they have thinner enamel therefore tooth decay can worsen quickly as compared to adult teeth.
Children who have experienced tooth decay or are at high risk of developing tooth decay can have images taken every 6 months. For children who do not have a history of tooth decay, the frequency of x-ray radiographs are kept to a minimum.
There are a number of guidelines that have been placed in order to guide dentists on the frequencies of dental x-rays. We put all these guidelines into consideration and advise you on what is best for you.
Patient’s comfort when taking dental x-rays
If you didn’t have a pleasant experience during a previous session when an x-ray was taken, you might be skeptical about a second one. We all love wonderful experiences, don’t we?
Taking dental radiographs can be a bit uncomfortable to the patient. Please inform your dentist or dental assistant if you feel uncomfortable. They can adjust some things so that they can minimize the discomfort. When you are comfortable, there is a high chance that good images will be produced allowing for better assessment and treatment.