Dental Radiography

X-rays are an invaluable diagnostic tool in dentistry. They can detect dental caries and bone loss as well as help evaluate periodontal diseases, orthodontic manipulations, oral tumors or any abnormalities present.

Individual circumstances will dictate how frequently radiographs should be taken. In certain circumstances, however, immediate radiographs may be warranted to protect a patient’s well-being.

Digital X-rays

Digital radiography uses electronic sensors to produce enhanced computer images of your dental structures. They capture the same amount of radiation, but don’t require chemical processing – instantly being displayed on a screen.

Digital X-rays allow us to detect hidden abnormalities that cannot be seen visually, such as tooth decay between or under existing restorations (fillings), bone infections, gum disease, abscesses and tumors.

Digital X-rays allow dentists to manipulate or enlarge the image for better assessment of problem areas and its surroundings. Images can easily be transferred to specialists for review and treatment planning purposes, with very little space required for storage and retrieval; in addition, film doesn’t degrade over time making digital radiography more cost-efficient, economical, and eco-friendly than conventional radiography.

Panoramic X-rays

Panoramic radiographs, also referred to as orthopantomograms, offer a two-dimensional view of both jaws from ear-to-ear. This allows dentists to assess fully emerged teeth, identify any impacted ones and assess bone density.

These extraoral X-rays provide an overview of all teeth, the maxilla, parts of the mandible including sinuses and hard palate, as well as any temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

Nader Ehsani and Lakshmannan Suresh of the University at Buffalo dental school conducted this study by reviewing 1,046 panoramic X-rays taken by patients visiting its clinics, looking for signs of lesions that could be identified by two experts.

Authors found in their analysis that automated segmentation of the condylar and coronoid processes — which connect the mandible to the glenoid fossa — had the highest error rate. This area is covered with bony structures as well as maxillary sinuses, creating weak edges which are hard to detect; researchers are working towards improving this segmentation method.

Bitewing X-rays

Bitewing radiographs offer an overhead view of both upper and lower back teeth in one image to detect tooth decay between your teeth, check for abnormalities in the bone that holds them in place (such as bone loss due to serious gum disease) or identify unerupted (missing) teeth. They should typically be taken on an annual basis.

Digital X-rays utilize computer sensors instead of film, providing much faster readings and instant image displays. Furthermore, these models use less radiation while eliminating chemical processing steps – all factors which help minimize exposure to potentially dangerous X-ray radiation levels.

Though bitewing X-rays pose little risk for you, it is still essential that they adhere to accepted safety protocols. Your dentist should wear a thyroid collar and lead apron while conducting the exam while children may require sedation to remain still during an exam. This allows the technician to capture images without touching the patient; especially helpful for patients who experience sensitive gag reflexes or difficulty keeping their mouth open when intraoral bitewings are needed.

Periapical X-rays

Periapical radiographs provide a view that extends all the way down to the tip of a tooth’s root, enabling dentists to use these images to assess tooth integrity and detect issues like cysts, abscesses or fractures in its roots.

Before conducting a periapical radiograph, your dentist will ask you to sit or stand in a specific position while placing a digital sensor or film inside of your mouth and pressing a button that captures an image, instantly displayed on a screen where technicians can analyze it.

This type of x-ray can be extremely beneficial in diagnosing dental diseases and helping avoid unnecessary treatments, but can be challenging to take because it requires you to bite down onto the biting surface (mylohyoid ridge and tongue). If you have an extreme gag reflex, your dentist may suggest using cottonwool roll for added comfort.

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