Dental radiographs, which are commonly called x-rays, are a vital tool to provide a dental team information about a patient. The dental team uses the information found on a radiograph to detect any abnormalities or concerns that cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are two general classes of radiographs: extraoral and intraoral. Each class of radiographs are for different concerns and each show different structures.
In general, dental radiographs are taken to identify cavities, bone loss, periodontal concerns, and any abnormalities. The most common things that are looked for are decay, bone loss, developmental concerns, abscesses and cysts, and tooth and root positions. In addition to detecting concerns, radiographs are used to help plan treatment for certain procedures like orthodontics and implants. The use of radiographs has been a key ingredient in the detection of dental concerns that are easily treatable as opposed to waiting for problems to occur.
The safety of radiation exposure is always a concern when taking radiographs. The dosage of x-ray radiation received from being exposed is small. It is commonly noted that the amount of exposure when a series of radiographs are taken is similar to the exposure one receives from a single days amount of natural background exposure. The advent of digital radiography has significantly decreased the amount of exposure.
The need for dental radiographs is critical when required for a proper diagnosis. When getting radiographs in conjunction with a cleaning, they can occur every six months if the rate of decay is significant to every three years if there is no history of cavities. Each patient is evaluated individually.