Dental Radiographs

Dental Radiographs
What are dental radiographs
Dental radiographs are special representations of the hard oral tissues (teeth and bones of the jaw) and are an integral part of the diagnosis process and the dental treatment planning. Their role is diagnostic since they allow the dentist to receive information about the anatomy of the roots, the jaw bone, and the quality of the restorations and of the endodontic treatments (root canals). Moreover, with the use of x-rays, the dentist can locate pathological conditions of the teeth (i.e. caries, fractures), of the jaw (i.e. loss of bone support of the teeth, cysts) and of the joints. These information are critical for a correct diagnosis and determine the treatment plan and its difficulty. Finally, in many cases, taking additional radiographs, during the treatment is necessary for the evaluation of the treatment progress.

Types of dental radiographs
There are various kinds of dental radiographs. The most commonly used are the intraoral periapical radiographs, the panoramic radiographs, the cephalometric radiographs and the cone beam computed tomographies. The dentist, depending on the case, determines which type of radiograph is most appropriate.
The intraoral periapical radiographs are the most commonly used x-rays in the dental practice and the most known ones to patients. They are intra-oral x-rays. They provide detailed information of the status of the teeth and the adjacent jaw bone. They allow the dentist to locate carious lesions, and to diagnose periodontal disease. Their disadvantage is that they display a limited number of teeth and a small region of the jaws.
The term “full mouth” is used when intraoral periapical radiographs that display all patient’s teeth are taken. The full set of such x-rays is taken, usually, in cases of periodontal disease, and allows the dentist to assess the extent of bone destruction around the teeth.
The panoramic radiograph is one of the most basic diagnostic tools of dentistry, because on a single picture the total oral status is displayed. Thus, through the use of panoramic x-rays the dentist can study the bones of the jaws, all the teeth, the temporomandibular joint and partially the nasal cavity and the sinuses.

The panoramic x-ray allows the dentist to diagnose and study various problems of the oral cavity, such as bone abnormalities, teeth and jaw fractures, impacted teeth, types of periodontal disease, cysts, tumors, etc. The panoramic radiograph is also a valuable tool for implant treatment planning, as well as in the orthodontics.

Its disadvantage though, is that it lacks high resolution.

The cephalometric radiograph is a special side view image of the head, through which the position and the relationship of the jaws and of the soft tissues of the skull can be studied. It is mainly used during orthodontics. Along with the panoramic x-ray, they constitute the most valuable diagnostic tool for orthodontic treatment.
The cone beam computed tomography is a specialized radiograph that provides a 3-dimensional image of the jaws and the teeth. Most of the times it is used in implant dentistry and in cases of bone grafting.

It provides the highest resolution of all the dental radiographs. However, its cost is especially high, as compared to other types of x-rays, and therefore is taken only when necessary.


Are dental radiographs safe?

Nowadays, the use of dental radiographs is safe. The radiographic machines, and especially the digital ones, radiate a small dose of radiation. For instance, the radiation received with a panoramic x-ray, is equivalent to the radiation that one receives while watching television for a few hours. The high tech machines also, provide the ability to adjust the magnitude of radiation, depending on the body type and the age of the patient. Thus, radiation is the smallest possible. For extra protection, patients wear, also, special collars and lead aprons that protect other parts of the body from the exposure to radiation.

Use of lead apron

Is it allowed to take dental radiographs during childhood?

Taking radiographs during childhood is allowed, but effort is placed to minimize them to the absolutely necessary. For bigger protection of the little patients, the dose of radiation is reduced, according to their body type and age. Moreover, like all patients, they wear special collars and lead aprons that protect other parts of the body from the exposure to radiation. Finally, because of their dimensionally small mouth, in the case of intraoral periapical x-rays, smaller radiographic tiles are used.

Is it allowed to take dental radiographs during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, it is generally recommended to avoid taking radiographs, unless it is absolutely necessary. Those women, like all patients, wear special lead collars and aprons that protect other parts of the body from the exposure to radiation.

What are the differences of a digital and an analogical radiograph?

Nowadays, the number of dental offices that take digital x-rays is increasing. This shift is due to the advantages of the digital radiographs such as:

  • smaller dose of radiation is needed
  • faster exposure
  • no need for development fluids
  • they are easily saved and transferred because of their digital form

Digital radiographs

How often should I take a panoramic radiograph?

The necessity of a new panoramic x-ray is determined by the dentist, by co-evaluating the clinical condition of the patient, the patient’s age and the confidence of the dentist that the new radiograph will provide new information.

Generally, even though the modern radiographs are safe, their shooting has to be justified and to comply with all protection measures for the patients and the dental personnel.

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