July 2, 2019
When you think of “X-ray vision,” you probably think of superheroes looking through solid objects to catch the bad guys. Believe it or not, dentists use X-rays in the same way! Your teeth and jaws are solid objects that can have a lot of problems under the surface, and X-rays make it possible for a dentist in Plano to find and catch cavities and other issues before they cause too much damage. Keep reading to learn more about the oral health problems that X-rays reveal and how often they’re necessary to keep your smile in great shape!
What Problems Can a Dentist Find With X-Rays?
- Periodontal (gum) problems– You must have healthy gums (and underlying jawbone) to stabilize and support your teeth. The only way to see the bone levels around the teeth is by taking routine X-rays.
- Cysts, infections, and tumors– Infections, cysts, bone defects, and tumors can develop inside your jaws and around the roots of your teeth where they can’t be detected with a visual exam alone.
- Cavities– Cavities don’t usually cause pain until they’ve progressed and gotten bigger. Unfortunately, this is when they’ve done the most damage and require more extensive dental work to repair (for example, you could need a root canal and crown instead of a simple dental filling). With annual bitewing X-rays, a dentist can see cavities when they’re small and haven’t caused pain yet.
How Often Do You Need X-Rays?
Before discussing how often X-rays are needed, keep in mind that the digital X-rays of today use up to 90% less radiation than traditional X-rays and are considered very safe and low-risk.
As for frequency, if it’s been several years since you’ve seen a dentist, you’ll typically get eithera full-mouth series that shows the root and crown of every tooth, or a panoramic X-ray that shows an overview of each tooth, the jaws, sinuses, TMJ, and more. The type of X-ray you’ll get simply depends on each dentist’s preference. With one of these comprehensive X-rays, a dentist can give you a thorough initial exam and make sure they’re not missing anything.
From there, you’ll get routine X-rays at every other checkup. This can vary depending on each patient’s needs, but the general recommendations are:
- Annually:Bitewing X-rays once a year. These show cavities in between the back teeth and underneath dental crowns or fillings
- Every 3-5 Years: Eithera full-mouth seriesora panoramic X-ray is taken every 3-5 years to provide a larger overview that a dentist doesn’t get from bitewings.
- As Needed: If you have localized pain or problems, a peri-apical X-ray (PA) will be taken to show a detailed, up-close image of that area.
Routine X-rays are truly in your best interest because they allow a dentist to find problems early on and prevent them from getting worse. And, ultimately, that means less dental work overall!
About the Author
Dr. Bita Kamali has nearly 20 years of experience as a family dentist in Plano and is a graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry. Her goal is to do a minimum of dental work on her patients, so she uses diagnostic tools like X-rays to catch problems as soon as possible. If you have any questions, she can be reached via her website.