A lot can be learnt about the condition of the teeth by clinical examination but sometimes a ‘deeper’ view is required. X-rays are a vital tool as they can highlight problems before you start to feel any pain or discomfort, when treatment would be far simpler.
Dentists use x–rays for many clinical reasons including to check for tooth decay, look at bone levels around teeth, investigate unerupted teeth or retained roots, investigate roots prior to root canal therapy.
It’s common to take x-rays called ‘bite wings’ on a regular basis depending on your risk factors, which give us a good overview of most of the teeth. Over a number of years these can be compared to each other and problems monitored to decide on the correct timing of any intervention.
Sometimes a more specific x-ray or ‘periapical’ is needed which gives a full view from tip to root of an individual tooth. We’ll often use these before crowning a tooth to rule out pre existing disease, to aid root canal therapy or before a tooth is extracted.
A full mouth x-ray or OPT will often be taken by a specialist prior to orthodontic treatment or multiple wisdom tooth extractions. These give an overview of all the teeth, both jaws and jaw joints (TMJ’s). They don’t involve placing an x-ray inside the mouth and so can be particularly helpful in patients with an active gag reflex.
Even though the radiation dose is very small these days with modern equipment and “fast” film speeds you should still tell the Dentist if you are or think you may be pregnant. Your Dentist should always discuss the pros and cons of x-rays and pregnancy alone is not always a barrier.
We also have digital x-ray capability within the Practice. When appropriate an immediate image can be seen on the computer screen without using ‘traditional’ film and processing.
Finally, we have access to more specialised imaging called computerised tomography (CT) and also magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These are usually used for Patients with specific jaw joint problems that we often see by referral.