The Most Common Types of Dental X-Rays Explained

Intraoral x-rays are the most common type of dental x-ray. There are several types of intraoral x-rays, each one showing different aspects of the teeth. 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 are also commonly used to locate the source of dental discomfort. Many modern dental offices no longer use films, instead using a sensor that sends the X-ray to the computer for the dentist to review. This makes the process a little faster because they don't have to develop the film. Bite x-rays show most of the tooth, but 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. Occlusal x-rays 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.

Dentists also commonly use it 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.

Finally, 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. 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. A bite X-ray is used to look at a specific area of the mouth.

Your dentist may request one or more bite X-rays during your checkup. Each bite captures the exposed (visible) part of the upper and lower teeth, as well as half of the roots and supporting bone. Bite x-rays help dentists detect cavities, especially between teeth, as well as changes in jaw caused by gum disease. Panoramic x-rays show images of entire area of mouth and can detect fully emerged, emerging and impacted teeth all in one image.

Occlusal x-rays help track development and location of full section or arc of teeth in upper or lower jaw. Pediatric dentists primarily use them to find teeth of children who haven't yet crossed gums while adults may show impacted teeth, jaw problems or masses such as tumors. Dental x-rays are an important part of every dentist's set of tools for detecting cavities and other problems in patient's mouth. If patient has medical condition that requires numerous x-rays, dentist may choose to forego dental x-rays for that person unless absolutely necessary as these x-rays capture anatomy of entire root making them useful for diagnosing problems such as dental abscesses, cracked roots and impacted teeth.

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Madison Bew
Madison Bew

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