Digital X-Rays and Clinical Photos

Why dental X-rays are necessary, and the different types of imaging services we offer at our dentist's office.

Digital Dental X-rays will often be scheduled as a part of a follow-up after dental treatments, and always during the initial examination.

The Purpose of an X-Ray

Digital Dental X-Rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and surrounding soft tissues which are used to screen for and help identify problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. X-ray pictures can show cavities, cancerous or benign masses, hidden dental structures (such as wisdom teeth), and bone loss that cannot be seen during a visual examination. It is possible for both tooth decay and periodontal disease to be missed during a clinical exam, and radiographic evaluation of the dental and periodontal tissues is a critical segment of the comprehensive oral examination.

A radiographic image is formed by a controlled burst of X-ray radiation which penetrates oral structures at different levels, depending on varying anatomical densities, before striking the digital sensor. Teeth appear lighter because less radiation penetrates them to reach the film. Dental caries, infections and other changes in the bone density, and the periodontal ligament, appear darker because X-rays readily penetrate these less dense structures. Dental restorations (fillings, crowns) may appear lighter or darker, depending on the density of the material. Incidental exposure to X-Ray Radiation is further reduced by the use of a lead shield, lead apron, and sometimes with a lead thyroid collar.

Benefits of Digital X-Rays Over Film X-Rays

Once photographic film has been exposed to X-ray radiation, it needs to be developed, traditionally using a process where the film is exposed to a series of toxic chemicals in a dark room, as the films are sensitive to normal light. This is a time-consuming process and is not environmentally friendly. Furthermore, incorrect exposures or mistakes in the development process can necessitate retakes, exposing the patient to additional radiation. Digital x-rays, which replace the film with an electronic sensor, address these issues. Digital X-Rays are quicker than conventional radiographic films, and are instantly viewable on a computer. Digital X-Rays also provide unmatched patient comfort, with small, light, soft and flexible Phosphor Storage Plates.

In Compliance with the 2014 Federal Mandate

The Digital X-Ray technology in our office complies with the 2014 Federal Mandate that all dental records be in electronic format. A full set of X-rays (18) are required for patients who are new to our Dental Practice, and especially for patients or who need extensive treatment. Two to four follow-up or check-up X-rays called “bite-wings” are necessary every 6-18 months, but this requirement can vary based on each individual patient’s needs. The most common concern with dental X-rays is whether they are necessary, due to concerns about radiation exposure, and safety during pregnancy. We are happy to explain the merits of an X-Ray to patients, and go into detail about the benefit of the digital X-ray technology at our practice.

X-Ray Patient Concerns

Some people worry about their exposure to radiation during dental X-ray procedures. This is very understandable in light of the relatively high radiation of some medical X-rays. They may remember a doctor in the emergency room asking them or a female family member if they are pregnant because they need to take a chest X-ray or an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. Patients who have had cancer may also have a heightened sense of awareness about the radiation that they are receiving at the dental office. At Beautiful Dentistry, we are also very concerned about minimizing the amount of radiation a patient receives at our dental office. That’s why we use special digital equipment that delivers less radiation that standard X-Rays. It is also our standard procedure to cover patients with a lead apron during X-ray procedures. You will be happy to know that 18 dental X-rays deliver 56,000 times less radiation to an unborn child than an upper GI series, 800 times less radiation than a chest X-ray, and 40 times less radiation than a typical day of background radiation. Dental X-rays are both safe and effective, and can be used during pregnancy.