Why Do I Need Dental X-Rays?

 In oral health

When you go in to see your dentist for an annual check-up, you might have noticed that most often, you will receive bitewing x-rays. But have you ever asked the dentist why these x-rays are done? What is the purpose behind dental x-rays? We have the answers for you.

What is the Purpose of X-Rays?

To begin with, let’s take a look at why dentists need x-rays. While both the dentist and the hygienist have clever eyes to perform an examination, much of what happens with a tooth goes on below the surface of the tooth, where eyes cannot reach. Through x-rays, dentists can spot any sign of decay, bone loss, infection, and even breaks in the teeth. If you are young enough to still be getting teeth in, x-rays can show you where those new teeth are at within the bone. X-rays help show us what we cannot see with our eyes alone.

Types of X-Rays

There is more than one type of dental x-ray that you might be asked to do at one point or another. This is how they break down.

  • Periapicals: Often called PAs, periapical x-rays are taken to examine an isolated tooth and the surrounding bone. They are a great diagnostic tooth if you are experiencing any kind of dental problem. A PA will reveal any gum disease that has gone under the gums, it can show any abscesses that might be along the root, check for cavities, and look at any trauma your tooth might have received.
  • Bitewings: Bitewing x-rays are usually permed in sets of four. They are the annual x-rays that you need to have that will look at any changes going on with your molars. They do not show the ends of roots like a PA x-ray will, but are used to detect decay in the harder to reach areas of your mouth.
  • Full Mouth Series: A full mouth series of x-rays is a set of 18 films that are taken on the same day. This series includes four bitewings, eight posterior periapicals, and six anterior periapicals. A full series is need once every three to five years. If you are seeing a new dentist, this series will be take on your first appointment to give the dentist a complete look at what is going on with every tooth in your mouth.
  • Panoramic: A panoramic x-ray will take a whole look at your entire jaw in one picture. These are not used often in general dentistry, but are necessary for orthodontia, oral surgery, and sometimes even with root canals. This x-ray can look for fractures, tooth movement, and structure, but it is not good for diagnosing cavities.

What do you need?

If your dentist has suggested you have x-rays taken, then you should. Even when you think that your mouth is healthy and symptom free, an x-ray might reveal an unknown problem, brewing below the surface. The longer you put off a problem, the harder it is to solve. Get the x-rays that have been recommended to you for your own health and safety.

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