Dentists rely heavily on X-rays to diagnose dental problems. Without X-rays, you would have to wait for a toothache before you could catch anything. Not only are X-rays used to detect cavities and broken fillings, but they also show bone loss, trapped wisdom teeth and other suspicious oral lesions. There are 3 basic types of X-rays we use to properly diagnose various dental conditions, which include:
Periapicals and bitewings are small individual X-rays which we take while you’re sitting in the dental chair. These are the most common X-rays which help us diagnose cavities, infection and gum disease. Periapical and bitewing X-rays show lots of fine details but only capture a small area, typically covering 2 to 4 teeth each. New patients typically receive 12 to 18 X-rays whereas recall patients usually get 4 to 6 X-rays. This is considered a sufficient amount of X-rays to capture every tooth in your mouth for new and recall patients accordingly.
Panoramic X-rays are taken while you stand up where the machine rotates around your head. Panoramic X-rays are ideal for identifying bone condition, suspicious lesions, wisdom teeth and TMJ joint status. These X-rays are very useful and give us a broad overview of what your teeth, jaw and facial bones look like. Panoramic X-rays are recommended for patients who still have their wisdom teeth, have multiple missing teeth or need orthodontic treatment.
A CBCT, which stands for Cone Beam Computed Tomography, is used to capture 3D views of your jawbone. The advantage of CBCT over traditional CT is that CBCT has a much more focused field of vision and thus emits far less radiation. This is ideal for dentistry since we only need to visualize a specific region of your mouth. Since CBCT captures 3D views of your jaw, it is ideal for diagnosing bone width, nerve location and sinus conditions, which are very important for implant dentistry. In fact, a CBCT is the only acceptable diagnostic X-ray for treatment planning dental implants and you should not accept any other X-ray as an alternative.