X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to visible light, but with higher energy that can pass through most objects, including the body. Medical x-rays are used to create images of tissues and structures inside the body. In dentistry, there are three main types of x-rays: periapical (intraoral or wall-mounted), panoramic and occlusal. Chest x-rays are the most commonly given diagnostic x-rays, producing images of the heart, lungs, respiratory tract, blood vessels, spine, and chest bones.
Bite x-rays are very common and are often taken for preventive purposes because they are a great way to see any cavities between the teeth or below the gumline. The term bite comes from the way patients must bite the X-ray film. These types of x-rays can be taken directly in the dental chair and show most of the tooth. If your dentist needs to get a good look at the entire tooth or jaw, a periapical x-ray is a better option.
This type of X-ray captures an image of the entire tooth, even just beyond the root of the tooth. Occlusal x-rays are designed to capture what is happening inside the roof or floor of the mouth, helping the dentist to see the full development and location of the teeth. This can be used to find out why teeth haven't come out yet or to detect supernumerary (additional) teeth, which can damage healthy permanent teeth. This type of X-ray can also be used to diagnose a cleft palate or fracture, cysts, abscesses, or tumors that are difficult to find.
A panoramic X-ray uses a special machine that takes an image of all the upper and lower teeth. The result is a 2D image of your mouth in 3D. If you have frequent complications or have undergone a major dental procedure in the past, your dentist may recommend that you have a panoramic X-ray from time to time to ensure that nothing is being prepared. Panoramic radiography can be used as a common radiographic method and is often used in preparation for major dental procedures, such as the placement of orthodontic appliances.
It can also be used to diagnose major complications, such as jaw tumors, cysts, and sinusitis.A cephalometric projection is an X-ray of one side of the entire head. Orthodontists often use this technique to see how the teeth and jaws fit together and thus create a treatment plan that covers the entire mouth. Your dentist may also suggest this type of X-ray to diagnose any throat complications, such as lumps or cancer. If you have sleep apnea, dentists usually help you, but your dentist may first suggest a cephalometric projection to clearly see the structure of the throat and determine the cause of sleep apnea.Finally, CBCT (computed tomography) or cone beam x-rays are a diagnostic imaging method that uses computerized technology to convert two-dimensional images into three-dimensional (3D) images.
Compared to a traditional two-dimensional X-ray that shows a flat image, the 3D image shows all the dimensions and aspects of the teeth and surrounding bone.