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Dental X-rays / Radiographs

Panoramic dental X-ray for assessment of developmental status.

A panoramic radiograph allows the dentist to assess a patient’s growth and development status, check for missing or extra teeth, and evaluate the teeth and bones of the facial area for disease processes.

Dental X-rays (radiographs) are used by dental health professionals to evaluate hard tissue (teeth and bones) for signs of disease process or abnormalities.

The type of X-rays prescribed is determined by the type of information the dentist needs to evaluate a patient’s dental condition and plan any required treatment. X-ray imaging techniques that are commonly used in dentistry include bitewings; cephalometric X-rays (cephs); cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans; full mouth series of X-rays; occlusal X-rays; panoramic X-rays (pano films); and periapical X-rays.

Orthodontic tracings on a lateral cephalometric X-ray (radiograph).

A cephalometric radiograph is a type of X-ray image showing the bones of the skull, mandible, and cervical spine, as well as the teeth. The orthodontist measures the relative position and angles of certain bones, and of the teeth to determine the extent and type of orthodontic treatment needed by the patient. (Image courtesy Thomas J. Melcher, DDS, MS).

Radiographs are an essential diagnostic tool of dental professionals. Even with promising emerging technologies, there is little doubt X-ray technology will continue to be a primary means of identifying and recording problems for the foreseeable future.

Since dental benefits became available, there has been controversy about how often a patient should be evaluated with routine X-rays. Unfortunately, the decision is sometimes made on the basis of how often dental plans will pay for them, rather than how often the patient’s dental history (e.g. decayed, missing and filled teeth); clinical findings (chips, cracks, decay, gum disease, etc.); and ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) exposure principles suggest they should be prescribed. Dental plans typically base payment of benefits for X-rays on the annual needs of an average plan participant. However, some patients may require more frequent imaging, and some less than others, based on individual needs.

Your dentist is the best qualified individual to evaluate your dental condition and prescribe appropriate radiographs on an appropriate interval.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on December 17, 2018.

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