During a routine dental appointment, your dentist performs a visual examination of your mouth to detect any visible signs of dental problems such as cavities, periodontal disease, or other abnormalities. However, to gain a more thorough understanding of your oral health status, they may also recommend dental x-rays.
These x-rays provide a detailed view of your teeth and surrounding structures, allowing your dentist to detect any underlying issues. By identifying these problems early, your dentist can take prompt action if indicated, preventing the progression of disease and potential complications
X-rays allow a dentist to view more details about the health of the interior of your teeth or your jaw. Read on to learn about three ways a dentist will employ x-ray imaging as a component of comprehensive dental care to protect your oral health.
How Do Routine Dental X-Rays Help My Smile?
Identify Tooth Decay
Dentists routinely identify dental caries (also known as tooth decay or “a cavity“), an early form of tooth decay, during a visual exam. This can appear as a hole in the tooth or a white, brown, or black discolored spot. But cavities do not always present with these visible symptoms.
Cavities can also develop in tricky-to-see locations, especially between the teeth. Dental x-rays are the primary way these cavities are diagnosed, so dentists often suggest annual dental x-rays to check for signs of decay.
If left untreated, dental decay progresses and requires more extensive care. X-rays, in conjunction with the routine care your dentist provides, can ensure you receive prompt treatment of tooth decay before the condition advances and worsens.
Evaluate Tooth Pulp Health
Even if do not notice signs or symptoms, you might suffer damage to the interior of your tooth, called the pulp, that will require dental attention. Your tooth pulp contains nerves and blood vessels that might become diseased, leaving your teeth at risk of infection.
Sometimes tooth pulp damage comes with pain or discoloration, but not always. An x-ray allows your dentist to see signs of pulp damage or non-vital tooth pulp. Non-vital means the tooth has no access to blood flow. Armed with this knowledge, your dentist can diagnose the issue and know to monitor or treat these teeth accordingly.
Non-vital tooth pulp is not always an acute dental issue requiring immediate treatment. However, if there are signs of infection, these teeth are often treated with root canal therapy.
Monitor Tooth Growth
Most dental patients will see their adult teeth grown into place by the time they are adolescents. However, teeth shift throughout life for a number of reasons. This shifting can cause issues with your bite, cause tooth chipping, and make a patient more prone to periodontal disease and tooth decay.
A dentist can keep an eye on the alignment of your smile with x-ray imaging. Then they can intervene to protect the look and structure of your teeth when needed. Invisalign can provide teeth straightening treatment for minor dental alignment concerns.
Many people also have wisdom teeth: extra molars that may not have room to erupt into your mouth in proper alignment. Your dentist will want to keep an eye on these teeth using dental x-rays. If they appear impacted or affect your other teeth, the dentist might suggest removal of these teeth.
But what about radiation exposure? Is it safe to get x-rays every year?
Dental x-rays are quite safe. In fact, a person will get more radiation from spending a day out in the sun on the beach or on an airplane flight across the country than they would getting a full mouth dental x-ray at their dentist’s office.
Your dentist cannot see everything they need to with the naked eye. Dental x-rays play a vital role by providing diagnostic information that is otherwise invisible during a routine examination. While a visual exam can identify visible dental problems, it does not allow your dentist to see the internal structure of your teeth and jaw.
X-rays enable a dentist to identify hidden dental issues such as cavities, impacted teeth, abscesses, bone loss, or other abnormalities that could otherwise go undetected. Dental x-rays allow your dentist to provide more precise diagnoses and get that information sooner before small issues become bigger problems.