Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is a modern technology. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation by 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays. The judicious use of dental X-rays is essential as a preventative, diagnostic tool that provides valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected and only get worse.
Dental X-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, our office still takes every precaution to limit your exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
How often should dental X-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Dr. Hutton and your dental hygienist will only recommend necessary X-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.
Single image, full mouth series and bite-wing x-rays
These are the most commonly used dental x-rays. A full mouth series of dental X-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom back teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems.
Panoramic X-rays (Panorex®) produce wraparound images of the jaws and teeth. A panoramic X-ray is not able to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve. They offer an over view of hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth, reveal preliminary signs of cavities, and also show fractures and bone loss. A panoramic X-ray is used when a patient is in extreme pain and when opening for a more conventional x-ray is difficult. Panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis.
The most common uses for panoramic X-rays are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the nerve in the lower jaw which extends toward the lower lip.
Additionally they are used to:
Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
Expose cysts and abnormalities.
Visualize impacted teeth.
Detect jawbone fractures.
Plan treatment (full or partial dentures and implants).
Assess bone loss due to periodontal disease.
Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment. They are safer than other types of X-rays because they require less radiation.
3D cone beam imaging
Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans are an X-ray procedure that uses many different X-ray images with the help of computers to generate cross-sectional or even 3D views of internal organs and structures within the body.
When needed Dr. Hutton relies on 3D imaging techniques and scans to provide a detailed view of the mouth and skull. The advantage that 3D imaging holds over regular dental x-rays is that bone structure, bone density, tissues, and nerves can be viewed clearly. The main use for 3D scans is as an aid to plan dental implant treatment and difficult endodontic procedures ( root canal treatment).
3D scans can be completed quickly which means that less radiation enters the body than with a regular set of bitewing X-rays
Intraoral cameras are changing the face of routine dental appointments. The intraoral camera gives the patient a unique view of each tooth - enabling them to understand diagnoses and make informed treatment decisions.
The intraoral camera is of great assistance when fabricating esthetic porcelain restorations. By down loading the image to a computer and sending a map of the natural tooth colors to the ceramist shade matching is greatly enhanced. The intraoral camera is an incredibly valuable tool, which brings dentistry to life.
On occasion, a patient may need to be referred to another specialist for complex treatment. If this specialist is able to view clear images of the teeth in advance, consultation times and costs can be reduced.
The intraoral camera is the size and shape of a pen and is covered with a disposable sheath, to ensure that no germs are transmitted from patient-to-patient. One of the biggest advantages of the intraoral camera is that it does not expose patients to radiation. The intraoral camera is one of the most useful and versatile diagnostic tools available.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of these imaging systems or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office.