X-rays are a pretty standard part of regular dental exams. There are a couple of types of x-rays dentists use: intraoral x-rays and extraoral x-rays. Dentists may use one or both of these types of x-rays to get a better picture of the teeth and the surrounding bone structure. Dentists use intraoral x-rays to monitor the teeth and see their finer details. Extraoral x-rays are used to monitor the jaw for growth and problems between the bone and teeth. Doing so provides some crucial information that helps them know how to best treat their patients.
Structure of the Tooth
When a dentist looks at teeth with their eyes, all they really see is the outer layer (unless a tooth has a bad cavity, in which case they can see further into the tooth). It can be helpful to see more of the tooth’s structure though. X-rays make it possible to see the enamel, dentin, and pulp chamber. This makes it easier to spot tooth decay sooner, especially if it’s taking place underneath the gum line.
Condition of the Filling
Fillings are meant to protect teeth from further decay. As long as the filling is in good condition and proper oral hygiene practices are followed, the filling is typically able to do its job effectively. If the filling becomes compromised or damaged, however, the tooth becomes vulnerable to decay on the surfaces covered by the filling. That can be practically impossible to spot without the help of x-rays though. X-rays help dentists keep an eye on both filling conditions and spot decay that may take hold underneath it.
Status of the Jaw Bone
Dentists aren’t just concerned with the teeth alone. They also have to pay attention to the jaw bone, since it’s what the teeth are embedded in. The teeth and jawbone work together to keep each other healthy and working properly. Problems with one will inevitably impact the other. As such, dentists will want extraoral x-rays done from time to time.
Some people feel concerned about getting regular x-rays at the dentist. After all, x-rays expose you to radiation, something that is generally considered bad for you. The good news is that those radiation levels are quite small–they are on par with the level of radiation you get from spending time in the sun. Don’t stress about it. Think about the benefits that come from your dentist getting a good look at what’s going on with your teeth instead.
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