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Why X-Rays Are Important

Female face with a magnifying glass placed over the mouth showing an xray image of the teeth and jaws

Since much of dental care is aimed at preventative measures, x rays provide another view to accurately evaluate oral health. Some dental diseases or issues cannot be seen by a normal physical examination and are only identified through the use of dental x rays. In this way, dental x rays help dentists to thoroughly evaluate a patient’s oral health.

First and foremost, dental x rays allow dentists to view different angles of your teeth that they would not be able to see by simply asking you to open your mouth. With dental x rays, your dentist can look between and inside your teeth, as well as look at your roots and underneath your gum line. These are all areas that would otherwise not be seen during a regular dental exam.

Different types of dental x rays focus on different things. For example, a panorex/panoramic film x ray shows a broad view of the entire oral cavity complete with surrounding bone structures and anatomy. Bitewing x rays, on the other hand, provide a more close-up view of the area between your back teeth. Finally, a periapical x ray focuses on an individual tooth and allows dentists to see around the tip of the tooth.

Dental x rays can also be used to monitor developing teeth or to identify wisdom teeth. If there are delays in tooth eruption, dentists use x rays to determine the cause of this delay and whether or not treatment is needed. They are also used to identify wisdom teeth and are commonly used to determine whether or not the wisdom teeth will be able to erupt properly. If not, which is almost always the case, the dentist can use the x rays to plan the best course of action to extract wisdom teeth, based upon their location in the jaw and the type of impaction.  

Furthermore, dental x rays can detect some dental issues in their beginning stages, allowing for prompt treatment before the problem develops further. Dental x rays can detect beginning stages of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and some types of tumors. Catching these issues before they have had a chance to physically develop means that they can be treated before they even begin to cause discomfort or further damage.

In addition, dental x rays can detect bruxism, or teeth grinding. Teeth grinding can cause severe damage to the teeth and jaw bone, which could result in pain. Using dental x rays, dentists can determine if a patient grinds their teeth by looking for signs of damage to the teeth or jaw bones.

Some people may be concerned over the radiation associated with dental x rays. However the amount of radiation used for dental x rays is such a low amount that it rarely has any negative effects. Dentists also use precautions such as protective aprons and collars, as well as limited exposure to reduce the already small level of radiation. There are also digital x rays, which have even lower levels of radiation.

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