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types of digital radiographs

Why Are Different Types of Digital Radiographs Needed

Learn why different types of digital radiographs are needed for different uses. Have you ever wondered why your dentist asks for dental x-rays? Have you noticed that sometimes they take a few x-rays and at other times, more than a few? Radiographs, also known as x-rays are necessary in dentistry, to help accurately diagnose and treat dental issues. Up to one third of your tooth structure is located underneath the gums. Often times, dental problems such as an abscess can only be verified by an x-ray in the early stages.


Periapical x-ray showing abscess in blue and cavity in green.

Different types of digital radiographs are also needed to monitor dental health over time. Many patients who smoke tobacco products will experience accelerated rates of bone loss in the mouth. When bone is lost in the mouth, teeth can become very loose over time and will eventually be lost, due to severe bone loss. By having regular dental radiographs taken, it allows your dental healthcare professional to monitor your bone levels and suggest treatment options to stop further bone loss and rebuild lost bone. The type of x-ray pictured above is referred to as a periapical x-ray and is used to diagnose dental decay, dental abscesses, bone levels and more.


Bitewing x-ray commonly used to diagnose dental decay.

Radiographs that are referred to as bitewings, are used by your dentist to diagnose cavities between teeth. These x-rays allow the dentist to have a detailed look at the upper portion of the tooth. Many cavities form at the upper portion of the tooth, where two teeth make contact with each other. It is common to find dental decay in these areas if food debris is not removed through regular flossing. While these radiographs are great for details of the upper portion of the teeth, they are not as useful as periapical radiographs are, for detecting and monitoring bone loss.


Panorex radiograph showing widsom teeth.

Another type of digital radiograph that is used in a dental office, is called a panorex image. This type of image helps to give your dentist an overall view of your teeth and their relation to each other and other landmarks in the mouth and head. These types of x-rays are particularly useful to determine the eruption timeline or the position of wisdom teeth. Some patients may be born without wisdom teeth and some may have widsom teeth that never make it past the gums. These types of x-rays can help your dentist to determine if any treatment, such as wisdom teeth extraction, will be necessary.

Many patients worry about or fear getting x-rays or radiographs taken during their dental visits. While much of this concern may have been a cause for worry in the past, modern x-rays produce far less radiation than before, up to 90% less radiation in some cases. With advancements in modern digital radiographs, the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to when having digital x-rays, is much less than ever before. We also follow the ALARA principle, which aims to reduce patient radiation to As Low as Reasonably Achievable.

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