Dental x-rays are an important part of routine dental care for both adults and children. Not only do dental x-rays reveal potential problems with incoming teeth, they can also reveal potential problems caused by hidden plaque. In addition to detecting common problems with teeth, dental x-rays can help detect gum disease and even osteoporosis.
There are two different types of dental x-rays – bite wing and periapical. The bite wing x-ray is taken when the teeth bite down together and shows the crown portions of the top and bottom teeth. The periapical is a more selective x-ray taken to show one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
In children, routine dental x-rays are recommended because they show the position, number, and size of teeth and because they can detect the presence of cavities before they can be seen on the surface of the teeth. Without dental x-rays, a dentist must rely only on a visual examination of the teeth. Sometimes cavities begin forming from plaque lodged between the teeth where a dentist can’t see. With the aid of dental x-rays, hidden cavities can be detected and taken care of early so there is less damage to the tooth.
Routine dental x-rays also detect impacted teeth, which can be a problem from childhood to early adulthood. In the event of injury, dental x-rays help determine the type and extent of injury. Recent research also indicates that dental x-rays might serve as an alternative method of screening for osteoporosis in older adults.
Dental x-rays, like all other x-rays do require low-level radiation exposure, but are still considered safe and are only performed at routine intervals or when a problem is suspected. Talk to your dentist if you have questions or concerns about dental x-rays. Typically, no special appointment is needed for x-rays as they can be done as part of routine cleanings and exams.