Digital X-rays

To only scratch the surface, is a phrase commonly used when you only deal with, or receive, a part of something significantly bigger. Having a dental examination without an x-ray can be one of those cases, both in the sense of the saying and, well, quite literally.

A dental x-ray, sometimes also referred to as a radiograph, allows our team to investigate beyond merely what they can see with their naked eye. It is often used during your routine dental examination, because it allows us to get a more holistic view of your current oral health. Remember, 1/3 of your teeth are below the gum line and thus not visible to the naked eye alone. In addition to this, it is not possible to see the tooth surfaces 'between' your teeth. This greatly limits the total surface area of the tooth that can be directly examined.

Even if our dental professionals were able to see all the surfaces, some dental issues, such as dental decay might not even be visible to the naked eye. Dental decay can be one of those sneaky dental health issues that does not even show any physical signs on the surfaces. Therefore, x-rays are a vital tool in our teams 'diagnostic equipment toolbelt' to find these kind of oral health concerns.

Are dental x-rays safe?

Before we continue, the most common question we get asked is are dental x-rays safe for me? Yes.

It does not matter if you are an adult or child, the x-rays that are taken at our dental clinic contain an extremely low dose of radiation. To put it into perspective, you would receive about the same amount of radiation during a short 1 to 2 hour flight, for example, from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney.

This amount of radiation is so low, it is technically even safe to come in for a dental x-ray whilst you are pregnant. Having said this, however, we try to avoid this regardless and recommend you come in for your routine dental examination and x-rays before conceiving. Simply put, it is one less thing you have to think about whilst pregnant and if we were to find a dental health issue that required, for example, medication, we could resolve this before your pregnancy. Rest assured, however, if you have any dental health concerns during your pregnancy, we are well equipped and experienced to help you out.

At this point you might be asking, why do the dentists leave the room? Simple. They take x-rays almost all day, every day, meaning their level of exposure over time would be higher if they stayed in the room. Whilst 1 or 2 x-rays per year is negligible, 10+ a day is a different level of exposure completely. By leaving the room they shield themselves from this higher level, as all of our dental surgery walls are completely lead lined, certified and passed as safe by Queensland Radiation Health, preventing the x-ray from transmitting outside.

Are there different kinds of x-rays?

There are in fact several different types of x-rays, all of which provide a slightly different view of your teeth and mouth in general.

The four most common types of x-rays are:

  • Bitewing: This type of x-ray provides a view of the upper and lower posterior teeth. It allows our team to establish how the teeth touch one another (or occlude) and can help determine whether there may be any decay between the teeth (interdental). It usually involves biting down on a special piece of paper.
  • Occlusal: This will capture the full arch of teeth, either upper or lower, and can help detect abnormalities in the palate or the floor of the mouth. An x-ray of this kind also allows our team to see the development and the placement of the teeth, which is particularly beneficial for children's dental.
  • Panoramic: This is somewhat the most 'holistic' of the x-rays in that the machine rotates around your head as it is taken. This type of x-ray can be useful when investigating jaw issues, checking wisdom teeth and planning for dental implants.
  • Periapical: This type of x-ray is very focused, in that it will be specifically taken on one or two teeth only, however, it shows the entire length of the tooth, from root to crown.

What can a dental x-ray detect?

A dental x-ray, like other x-rays, is a type of energy which is used to look at the denser parts of the body. This means that the x-ray energy passes through the softer tissues in the body, such as the gums, cheeks, tongue etc. The jaw bone and teeth, however, are very dense and absorb the x-ray's energy allowing dentists to examine these areas.

Our dental team uses x-rays for things such as (but in no way limited to):

  • Detecting tooth decay between your teeth or possibly underneath a filling (restoration).
  • Finding abscesses underneath teeth.
  • Any bone loss possibly from periodontal disease.
  • Locating developing teeth, such as wisdom teeth, to ascertain if they are in the correct location and growing in the correct direction.
  • Determining if there are any fractures present after a traumatic injury.
  • Finding if there is an unlaying issue with a crown or bridge that maybe causing discomfort.
  • Determining the proximity of teeth in relation to nerves or sinuses prior to any surgical procedures.
  • The amount of bone present and needed for a dental implant.

Naturally, given the nature of x-rays they may sometimes bring up a dental issue that our team was unaware of prior to it being taken. Rest assured, if any issues are found we will discuss with you what treatment options are available to ensure your oral health remains in tip top shape.

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