Dental X-Rays Explained

Most people know that when they visit the dentist, they can expect to have dental radiographs, also known as x-rays, taken for the dentist to view. While this can be expected, most people don’t know what the dentist is looking for, and what it is exactly that they are seeing when they examine an x-ray in the room during an exam. Continue reading for more information on dental x-rays, why they are taken, and how the dentist uses them to ensure you receive the best dental treatment possible.

What to expect:

When you arrive at the dentist, you will usually have your dental x-rays taken by a dental assistant. It is the assistant’s job to communicate with you to identify any problem areas before taking your x-rays, so that they know exactly where to focus. While he or she takes your x-rays, they will examine what they see, and if they see any areas that may be questionable, they will take more concentrated images for the dentist to examine. There are a number of things that may appear to be red-flags when viewing x-rays:

  • Dark spots (Either in the tooth or around the root): Dark spots on an x-ray can be an indication of decay in the tooth. Your dentist will take note of any tooth decay, and plan for treatment as needed.
  • If there is a dark spot visible around the root of the tooth, this is usually a sign of infection. The spot around the root usually indicates the place of an abscess. The image taken is extremely important for the dentist to determine the size of the abscess, and the amount of infection that is present.
  • Broken teeth: Teeth that have broken down to the root, otherwise known as root tips, can easily be seen on an x-ray. Dentists usually recommend removing them, though they may choose to leave them be if they are not causing any discomfort and the patient does not want to have it extracted.

When the dentist examines your x-rays in the rooms, he or she will look for signs of these red flags before proceeding with your exam. They will also usually count the teeth present, and take note of any dental work that has already been completed in your mouth. If there are any fillings in your mouth, they will make sure there are no dark spots around or underneath the filling to ensure that it is still stable, which would indicate decay or cavities underneath the filling. In the case that they do locate tooth decay under an existing filling, they will plan for the old filling to be removed, and replaced with a larger one in order to clear out the decay. They will do the same with any crowns or bridges that are present in the mouth to make sure there is no decay underneath, which can cause the crown or bridge to fail. In the case that there is decay located underneath a bridge or crown, the dentist will need to remove that crown or bridge in order to determine if the tooth -or teeth- can be saved with a new crown, or if they will need to be removed.

Other uses for dental x-rays:

Dentists will also examine your x-rays to determine that you have an adequate amount of bone. Your bone level is extremely important; if there is any recession in the bone, eventually the teeth will become loose. This is usually due to something called Periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease in which bacteria eats away at the bone. If your dentist sees any signs of bone loss in your x-rays, this will alert them to the fact that you may need to begin more thorough cleanings in order to remove the bacteria under your gums. X-rays are just one proactive step that help your dentist deliver the best treatment possible.

The caring and professional team here at Oakton Dental Center are ready to begin helping you preserve and protect your most beautiful smile. To get scheduled in our Oakton, VA dental office or to learn more about us, give us a call at (703) 938-3405.