Digital radiography is a form of x-ray imaging, where digital X-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Advantages include time efficiency through bypassing chemical processing and the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images. Also less radiation can be used to produce an image of similar contrast to conventional radiography.
Dental X-rays are used to:
- Show areas of decay that the dentist may not be able to see with just a visual examination, such as tiny pits of decay that might occur between teeth
- Detect disease under restorations
- Find cracks or other damage in an existing filling
- Alert the dentist to possible bone loss associated with periodontal (gum) disease
- Reveal problems in the root canal, such as infection or death of the nerve
- Help the dentist plan, prepare and place tooth implants, orthodontic treatments, dentures or other dental work
- Reveal other abnormalities such as cysts, cancer and changes associated with metabolic and systemic diseases
For children, radiographs are used to watch for decay and to monitor tooth growth and development. Dentists will use periodic X-rays to see whether a space in the mouth to fit all the new teeth, whether primary teeth are being lost quickly enough to allow permanent teeth to erupt properly, whether extra (supernumerary) teeth are developing or whether any teeth are impacted (unable to emerge through the gums). Often, major problems can be prevented by catching small developmental problems early and then making accommodations.
How Often Should Your Teeth Be X-rayed?
Even though no X-ray can be considered routine, many people require X-rays on a regular basis so that their dental condition can be monitored. Exactly how often this happens depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months. For others, X-rays may not be needed for as long as two years. In patients with no recent dental or gum disease and who visit the dentist regularly for check-ups, X-rays may be taken only every five years or so.