Simply put, a dentist will take an x-ray to see what we cannot see in an oral exam. But what are a few scenarios in which a dentist might take an x-ray?
If you are a new patient at a practice, the dentist may want a clear full picture of your oral health. They’ll also review your dental and medical history and give a full oral exam. They are looking for anything that may need to be addressed right away or down the line concerning your oral health. The x-ray not only helps them see possible decay, but with it they can also check for bone fractures, tumors, cysts and even sinus issues.
If a patient is complaining about pain, hasn’t had any dental work in that area, and it can’t be diagnosed through a visual exam.
Sometimes there are areas of decay that are hidden between the teeth, and an x-ray can make them visible. If there is a new area of pain or sensitivity and it can’t be seen with an oral exam, your dentist might want to take an x-ray, especially if there hasn’t been any dental work in that particular area.
If your dentist or hygienist diagnoses you with periodontal disease, they may want to take an x-ray to see how advanced it is and if it is accompanied by bone loss. This will help them put together a plan to treat the periodontal disease. If not properly treated, the patient could get periodontitis which could cause them to lose their teeth.
You’re having oral surgery, like getting your wisdom teeth removed or dental implants placed. Your dentist will want an x-ray to get a complete picture of your teeth, tissue, bone, and nerves before doing any sort of oral surgery. If you’re having a tooth extracted, this will help your dentist to plan out the best way to remove the teeth. If you’re having an implant placed, the x-ray will show them the amount of bone density there is so they can decide the best way to place the implant.
For children, to monitor the growth of adult teeth. Kids might need to have x-rays done on a more regular basis to monitor how their adult teeth are coming in. The x-rays can help forecast if they will need braces, and check for any other oral health concerns.
Over the years, the technology behind taking x-rays has improved, and the amount of radiation a patient is exposed to has gone down. There have never been any studies linking radiation in Intraoral x-rays to other health complications. That being said, there are always safety precautions taken whenever X-rays are taken in a dental office.