The dental radiography or dental X-ray
The imaging tests are indicated by the dentist at the conclusion of the physical examination to study important details that were impossible to observe during the physical examination. The most important imaging method is the dental radiography.
There are many types of dental radiographies and, because of the progress in this branch of medicine, clarity and precision are excellent and the dosage of X-ray radiation received by a patient is typically small.
The X-rays can be released on a photographic film or digitally on a CD or via e-mail. Here are some of the most important types (or views) of dental radiographies :
The periapical view is taken of both anterior and posterior teeth. The objective of this type of view is to capture the tip of the root on the film.
This is often helpful in determining the cause of pain in a specific tooth, because it allows a dentist to visualize the tooth as well as the surrounding bone.
dental radiography periapical view
This view is often used to determine the need for endodontic therapy as well as to visualize the successful progression of endodontic therapy once it is initiated.
The bitewing view is taken to visualize the crowns of the posterior teeth and the height of the alveolar bone. Normally, both upper and lower teeth crowns are captured on a single view together with the surrounding bone.
dental X-ray bitewing view
The bitewing view is used to examine for interdental decays and recurrent caries under existing restorations as well as the degree of bone loss.
Occlusal X-rays are larger and show the roof or floor of the mouth with full tooth development and placement. Each X-ray reveals the entire arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.
Occlusal X-rays are used to find extra teeth, teeth that have not yet broken through the gums, jaw fractures, a cleft in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate), cysts, abscesses, or growths. Occlusal X-rays may also be used to find a foreign object.
Panoramic films are extra-oral films that show all of the teeth as well as the maxilar and mandibular bones.
Panoramic films are very useful in detecting fracture and other pathological entities inside the bones. They are also useful in giving the practitioner an overall view of the clinical situation.
Panoramic films are not very good at assessing periodontal bone loss, tooth decay or periapical infections.
The sinus X-ray is a particular view that can reveal the position and look of the maxillary sinuses. The maxillary sinuses are the air-filled spaces in the front of the skull.
The sinus X-ray may be a method of diagnosing acute or chronic sinus inflammations (sinusitis) or assessing the possibility of inserting dental implants.
Because a computed tomography (CT) scan shows a much clearer picture of the sinuses and other structures, the use of standard sinus X-rays has declined.
Other types of dental X-rays are available (skull X-ray, X-ray of salivary glands etc.) but these are more often used in other dental specialities.
Besides dental radiographies, the practitioner may call for other types of imaging methods ; the CT scan has emerged in the later years.
The information obtained after the imaging methods, together with the medical examination enables the physician to form a diagnosis and devise the treatment plan.
Last review and update: November 2020