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The 5 W’s of Dental X-rays

Patients sometimes ask us why we must take X-rays of their teeth every year.

“Digital X-rays are powerful diagnostic tools for dentists,” Tewksbury dentist Dr. Nitish Nahata says. “They enable us to evaluate the health of your teeth and supporting bone structure.”

To help drive home the reasoning behind this, following are the five W’s of digital dental X-rays:

What?

Digital X-ray technology is a precise method of gathering diagnostic information regarding your teeth. Digital X-rays are safe because they emit 90 percent less radiation than traditional X-ray technology. They also are quick – the images are immediately available for viewing via computer screens in our treatment rooms. This results in faster treatment times. Finally, they offer better diagnostic capabilities.

Intraoral X-rays are the most common type of dental X-ray taken. They enable us to detect cavities and evaluate health of teeth roots and surrounding bone structures. We also can view developing teeth that haven’t yet erupted, and monitor the general health of your teeth and jawbone.

Extraoral X-rays enable us to look for impacted teeth, monitor jaw growth, and to identify potential problems between teeth, jaws and the temporomandibular joint. Certain types of 3D extraoral X-rays help us plan for procedures such as implant placements and bone grafts.

Who?

Every patient needs dental X-rays taken periodically. We take dental X-rays of new patients so we can determine their current level of oral health and establish a baseline to help identify changes that may occur later.

Children often require more frequent X-rays than grownups because they’re still growing. Children also are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than adults.

While proven safe during pregnancy, pregnant women should not have dental X-rays taken unless absolutely necessary.

When?

It is highly likely that you don’t need X-rays taken at every office visit. How often you need X-rays is dependent upon your dental health, signs of dental problems, your age and your risk for oral disease. However, we typically take bitewing X-rays once each year to check for cavities between teeth, and to show the way in which the upper and lower teeth align. These images also show bone loss due to periodontal disease.

We tend to take a full series every five years to check the supporting bone structure. A full series includes 18 to 21 X-rays of your teeth and supporting structures.

Where?

This one is easy! All intraoral digital X-rays are taken at our Tewksbury dental office.

Why?

This is the most important of the five W’s. Digital dental X-rays help us see small problems before they become big ones that require more extensive – and potentially more expensive – treatment. They pave the way to early diagnosis for conditions we can’t see with the naked eye.

Dental X-rays have helped us detect infections, abscesses, cysts, tumors and oral cancers through the years. Avoiding this portion of the diagnostic process could result in an inaccurate diagnosis or incomplete treatment.Early diagnosis is important to our dentists. For that reason, Dr. Nahata always is on the lookout for improvements in technology that provide earlier, more accurate diagnosis. That is why we soon will add a cone-beam 3D imaging machine to our office. This technology uses a single 10-second scan to create views of the bones of the face, the teeth and other details from any angle, in 3D. Stay tuned for a future blog post that explains this technology and how it expands our in-office capabilities in greater detail.

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