When you visit a family dentist for a checkup, he or she will probably want to take x-rays of your teeth. While this is not usually needed at every appointment, it is something that most dentists like to do at least once a year. In addition to taking x-rays, your dentist will also carefully examine your mouth during your visit. The purpose of x-rays is to locate problems the dentist cannot see with his or her eyes, and here are several different things you should understand about x-rays.
When They Are Needed
Once a year, dentists like to take bitewing x-rays. These show pictures of the individual teeth and are helpful for seeing the roots and condition of the teeth. In addition, dentists also like taking panoramic x-rays every few years. A panoramic x-ray shows a person's entire mouth and jaw all in one picture.
Why They Are Needed
When a dentist examines your teeth, what he or she sees is very limited. The dentist can also see surfaces of teeth and gum lines, but the dentist cannot see the insides of the teeth or the jawbone in your face. Visual examines are good and necessary, but they just do not reveal enough information for dentists to be satisfied.
What X-Rays Can Reveal
Regular bitewing x-rays are extremely helpful in detecting hidden problems and small problems with teeth. Here are the main things dentists look for in the x-rays they take:
- Depth of cavities – An x-ray can reveal how big a cavity is in a particular tooth. It will show the size of the cavity and its depth. X-rays are also great for finding cavities that are hidden in between teeth.
- Broken teeth – If a tooth has a slight crack in it, the tooth could experience problems if the crack is not fixed. Unfortunately, it might be hard for a dentist to see a small crack just by looking at your teeth.
- Infections in roots – When cavities are left unaddressed, they can work their way into the roots of a tooth, and this too is something x-rays detect. When infections are inside the roots of a tooth, they will often appear black or shaded on the x-rays. This is typically how a dentist knows for sure if a patient needs a root canal.
- Bone loss and condition – X-rays are also great for detecting bone mass loss and the condition of the bones in the jaw. When the jawbone begins losing mass, it can represent a bigger problem, such as gum disease.
- Growths – When x-rays are taken, they can also help a dentist discover any growths within the mouth or bone. Growths can be cancerous in some cases but not in others. If a dentist notices a strange growth in your mouth, he or she may send you to a specialist to have it examined further.
These are just some of the main things x-rays are good for, and there are several reasons dentists want to find these issues as quickly as possible.
Why This Matters
When dentists find issues with teeth, gums, or bone, they want to fix them quickly. This is because fixing a small issue is easier than fixing a large issue, and dental issues do not go away on their own. They typically worsen over time. If they are left too long, they could end up causing damage that is irreversible or unfixable. Fixing issues sooner rather than later is easier for a person to go through and is more affordable.
If you have not had a dental checkup recently, you may want to schedule one today. This is the best way to find out the condition of your teeth, and this is the best way to keep your teeth healthy.